Amway Grand Plaza undergoes $14M facelift


By the end of this year, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel will have updated 285 of its 682 rooms. Courtesy Amway Hotel Corp.

Just shy of its 100-year anniversary, which takes place in 2016, Amway Grand Plaza is undergoing a $14 million renovation project that focuses on business travelers.

The hotel will have renovated 285 of its 682 rooms when the renovation is completed in mid- to late December. All of the renovated rooms are contained in the hotel’s 29-story glass tower.

Rather than stick with one design concept, Amway has chosen two distinct designs to appeal to two sets of business travelers.

“We wanted to make sure, not that we are trying to be all things to all people, but we are trying to be cognizant of who our customers are, and we have different types of customers,” said Mike Donnelly, general manager of the Amway Grand. “I think the scope of this renovation is larger for these particular rooms than we’ve ever attempted before.”

Concierge rooms and suites take up three floors and are described as “a soft caramel and beige setting that leaves travelers equipped with all the essential needs for a successful business trip.” Floors three through 22 have been done in a classic style described as “exuding a sexy, dark and contemporary vibe that caters to today’s modern travelers.”

Donnelly said the concierge rooms are focused on a sophisticated traveler who is looking for a lot of amenities — “people who really want the top-of-the-line amenity,” he said.

Features include remote control blinds and dimmable lighting.

“We’ve trained our bellmen, when they are introducing the room, they help the guest by taking the light level — everything is dimmable — taking it down a little bit, bringing the shades down a bit and really setting the mood by introducing them to some of the amenities,” Donnelly said.

With the classic rooms, Donnelly said the hotel is focusing on trying to attract a younger demographic, a group of travelers who are looking for functionality in their hotel rooms, particularly when it comes to technology.

“It’s annoying when you travel to a hotel that isn’t basically built in the last two years,” Donnelly said. “It’s typically not suitable for the 3.2 devices everybody travels with right now. It’s really important for us to get the functionality down.

“We wanted to make sure they have the functionality with the lighting, with connectivity, to make sure the TV was connective, as well.”

Also important to the hotel was making sure both sets of rooms were designed with a metropolitan feel, which Donnelly said reflects Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids is growing up and becoming, more and more, this fabulous cultural, metropolitan, cool city, and we needed a design that said this is the hotel that is going to follow suit with the city,” he said.

Wendell Gooch, principal/lead designer at Gooch Design Studio in Chicago, designed the rooms.

Donnelly said Grand Rapids is seeing an increase in business and leisure travel and he expects occupancy numbers to continue to grow.

“Business travel is on the rise again,” he said. “Companies are expanding on their travel programs. Business travel occupancies have gone up and, at this hotel in particular, we’ve seen that number really increase.”

Donnelly pointed to a rebounding economy as the likely reason for increased business travel.

Leisure travel is also growing and Donnelly said that includes out-of-state visitors as well as local visitors from surrounding suburbs who are coming into the city for a concert, New Year’s Eve celebration or other event, and are booking hotel rooms for one- or two-night stays.

Hotels typically follow a renovation cycle, updating things like carpet, upholstered furniture, bedding, etc., every seven or eight years, and then doing a full renovation at about the 15-year mark. The Amway’s predecessor, The Pantlind Hotel, was built in 1916.

“We are following a cycle most hotels follow,” Donnelly said. “Since the hotel has been open since 1981, we’ve done several renovations.”

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