Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2013

SALISBURY — The first new hotel built in Salisbury in 13 years should open this month, if everything goes as planned for Courtyard Marriott.

Started in 2008 and then stalled due to the recession and government red tape, the hotel many people thought would never materialize now rises four stories above East Innes Street at the Interstate 85 interchange.

“I’m glad they stuck with Salisbury and Rowan County,” said James Meacham, executive director for the city and county tourism authorities.

In a time of shrinking government budgets, Meacham’s tourism marketing budget is expected to grow from $195,000 to $225,000 with the opening of the new hotel.

The city and county each levy a 3 percent hotel room tax.

The Courtyard Marriott, which Meacham predicted will quickly become a market leader, gives Rowan County a flagship hotel and a second hotel at I-85 exit 76, he said. Comfort Suites is also located at the exit.

BPR Properties of Greensboro owns and manages the Courtyard, one of five new hotels the company is opening in North Carolina in coming months.

The hotel, which occupies the site of an old Howard Johnson, should attract loyal Marriott customers who in the past may have stayed at Marriott locations in Concord, Kannapolis and Statesville.

Geared toward business travelers, the Salisbury hotel features Courtyard Marriott’s new design concept. The centerpiece is the Bistro, which sports the tagline “Eat. Drink. Connect.”

The Bistro has a lounge-like atmosphere with a full bar, sleek furniture and colorful pillows. The “community table” encourages hotel guests to congregate rather than just pass through the lobby, and more than a half-dozen sectional couches and arm chairs offer an unusually large number of seating and gathering options.

The restaurant will be open for breakfast and supper and offer grab-and-go items, as well as a full menu.

“We are very happy to be here and very impressed with the community,” said general manager Nicole MacPherson, who moved to Salisbury from Asheboro. “Everybody I have met and come across is so incredibly nice and welcoming, and the city is beautiful.”

MacPherson has hired 20 employees.

Up to 85 percent of people who stay in Salisbury hotels are here on business, so the Courtyard Marriott should do well with 94 rooms designed with the business traveler in mind, Meacham said.

The hotel, which has three suites, several connected rooms and one of two indoor pools in Salisbury, also may prove popular with families.

Rowan County has between 15 and 18 weekends a year when hotels are booked with leisure travelers, Meacham said. Events include NASCAR races, graduations, homecomings, tourist attractions like Thomas the Tank Engine and sporting events like the Southeastern Treeing Walker Coon Dog hunt and show.

“But the baseline of the hotel is the business traveler,” Meacham said. “Folks moving up and down the interstate.”

Some have Salisbury as a destination and are doing business with companies like Food Lion. Others are doing business throughout the region and choose Salisbury as a central location.

Rowan County has 10 hotels with about 900 rooms. The largest is Holiday Inn with 181 rooms, then Hampton Inn with 119 and Courtyard Marriott with 94.

Comfort Suites is the fourth largest with 78 rooms.

The Courtyard Marriott will help Rowan County land bigger events and larger groups, Meacham said.

“It will give us more flexibility to go after a 500-to-600-person conference, as well as a smaller event that want to come to town when we already have an event,” Meacham said. “It gives us more room to book on the same weekend.”

The Salisbury Courtyard is the first in the area featuring the new lobby environment, where guests can sit in three “media pods” with their own TV and media hook-ups.

The hotel offers free high-speed Internet but not Fibrant, the city’s new broadband utility.

A new road and cul-de-sac lead to the hotel, where a large patio will offer outdoor furniture and a fire pit. The patio is accessible from the lobby and the indoor pool.

The open, contemporary lobby features a vivid contrasting color scheme in blue, green, orange and red. The traditional front desk has been replaced with separate pedestals in an attempt to create more personal and private interactions when guests check in.

A centerpiece of the lobby is a GoBoard, a large touchscreen that acts as a virtual concierge with a restaurant guide and information about local events, entertainment, weather, flight status and news, including driving and walking directions that can be printed or scanned with a smart phone.

The Courtyard has a small library stocked with books from the Literary Bookpost, including local authors like John Hart.

The business center features four computers and a printer and separate computer stations dedicated solely to printing airline boarding passes and checking flight status.

A 650-square-foot meeting room can accommodate functions of up to 48 people.

“It is very modern and sleek,” MacPherson said of the hotel’s look. “The space in the lobby is great for gathering.”

Although City Council approved plans for two restaurants to build next to the new Courtyard — first a Buffalo Wild Wings and then a Golden Corral — neither panned out.

There are no plans for a restaurant adjacent to the hotel, MacPherson said, although guests have many dining options in the surrounding area.

Meacham said he still has hopes for a restaurant, and the new hotel and road with improved lighting and landscaping could help lure one.

  Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.