NewcrestImage makes a groundbreaking move

FRISCO, TX—NewcrestImage last month put shovel to dirt here for what is considered the industry’s first four-brand campus property to include flags from three separate major chains.

Part of the extensive Frisco Station, a 242-acre, mixed-use development (MUD) underway here, the hotel project is aggregating 600 guestrooms spread across an AC by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott, a Canopy by Hilton and a Hyatt Place.

In an exclusive interview with Hotel Business about the project, NewcrestImage Chairman and CEO Mehul Patel shared some of the details in bringing to reality what the company is dubbing a lifestyle hotel campus.

“The word ‘unique’ is over-used, but this project is truly worthy of that description,” explained the company’s chairman/CEO, who noted getting to the groundbreak itself was the result of some 18 months of planning. 

The hotels are all new-construction and will be brought out of the ground in two phases: the AC and Residence Inn, which will be housed together in one building—eight floors for the AC and seven floors for the Residence—will emerge first, along with the Canopy by Hilton, which will have its own building. The Hyatt Place, also in its own building, will be part of the second phase of construction, which is expected to begin this year. 

A separate four-story, 700-space parking garage also will be constructed.

The hotels will be located within 50 ft. of each other in an area of Frisco Station known as “The Hub,” and will anchor some 200,000 sq. ft. of entertainment and dining outlets that will complement the residential and office components, all of which will be enhanced by extensive landscaping, walkways and park settings.

According to Patel, after bidding against other competitors, NewcrestImage bought the site from Hillwood Properties, the master development partner for Frisco Station and has a lock on the location in the MUD.

“Our properties are the only hotels in Frisco Station. About 500 ft. from our hotel campus is a 300-room Omni Hotel that is part of The Star, a 91-acre sports and entertainment complex immediately adjacent to Frisco Station,” said the CEO. “The Star is the [new]headquarters and training facility of the Dallas Cowboys. It is a destination location that includes a 12,000-seat indoor stadium; a major sports-medicine facility; and more than 20 restaurants. The Star will clearly be a significant traffic generator for us.”  

According to Mike Berry, president of Hillwood Properties, the hotel campus is “an essential component” for Frisco Station. “With its strategic location, the hospitality campus will drive foot traffic and fuel energy throughout the development by both overnight guests and meeting attendees. And in addition to serving the residents of Frisco Station, these hotels will provide needed rooms for the rapidly expanding nearby Frisco office corridor and business community,” he observed.

When the estimated $1.5-billion phased project is completed, Frisco Station is expected to include some 2,400 residential units, 5 million sq. ft. of corporate components and a 40-acre medical campus, among other offerings.

The overall project is being developed by the Frisco Station partnership, which is composed of Hillwood Properties (general partner; founded in 1988 by Ross Perot Jr.); The Rudman Partnership (landowner; the Rudman family acquired the land in 1962); and VanTrust Real Estate LLC (office development; owned by an entity of the Larry Van Tuyl Family). Support partners include MRA International, Retail Street Advisors, Callison RTKL and RSM Design.

In selecting the brands to include in the campus, Patel said NewcrestImage “considered distinctive brands that were missing in the market. Then we approached them with a superb geographic location and a very special development concept.” The executive acknowledged there were lengthy negotiations with the major franchisors regarding the grouping of the brands. “We had about four months of discussions to ensure everyone was satisfied,” recalled Patel.

He added because it was all new-construction, securing financing for the projects was not the easiest aspect to accomplish. “It was very challenging,” said the CEO. “But our exceptional location and our strong brand partners prevailed, so we are very pleased to now be under construction.”

NewcrestImage’s investment in the four hotels and parking garage will be about $110 million and NewcrestImage Construction is serving as the general contractor on the project. 

Dallas-based NewcrestImage has a variety of hotel product in the state, including a Hyatt House it opened last year on Parkwood Blvd. in the Dallas/Frisco area. Frisco Station, however, is the most ambitious development undertaken by the company, noted Patel.

“It’s a great fit for our portfolio because we like ‘statement’ projects that add value both to their communities and to our bottom line,” he said, adding, “Typically, we look for high-barrier-to-entry markets that are performing strongly. We want to create distinctive, niche properties, either through renovation and adaptive-reuse—as we have done with historic sites in cities like New Orleans and Dallas—or through new-construction, as we are doing at Frisco Station. 

“Here, we are located in the heart of an area called ‘The $5-billion mile.’ It consists of four mixed-use developments that together have more than [that amount]in capital investment. For example, there are many major employers within one mile of our hotels: Toyota USA (7,000 employees); Boeing’s Global Services Division (300 employees); Liberty Mutual Insurance (4,000 employees); FedEx’s new world headquarters (1,200 employees); Fannie Mae’s regional headquarters (1,000 employees); JP Morgan Chase’s regional office (6,000 employees); Jamba Inc., headquarters of the franchisor for Jamba Juice stores, (100 employees); and NTT Data International’s headquarters (1,000 employees). There also are a wide variety of leisure demand generators such as sports, shopping and entertainment destinations,” he said.

Patel expects the business mix to be 50% corporate, 20% group, 15% sports and 15% leisure. 

He also anticipates adding some bells and whistles to the brand standards to play to the market.

“In no way will these hotels be ‘standard,’ said the CEO. “We are creating hotels that are truly special in how they connect with guests and with the site. Our goal is to both stand out and blend in at the same time—stand out for visitors and blend into the community.” 

The AC by Marriott will be among the first of this brand in North Texas and will incorporate AC’s many European-inspired furnishings and amenities, artwork, lighting, music, beverage and food, as well as a “lifestyle” common area, said Patel.

“The Residence Inn also will be unlike other properties of this brand. For example, it will feature vibrant colors, eclectic furniture and artwork, and textured walls,” he added, noting while the Marriott brands will have separate entrances, they will share the same management, sales and housekeeping staff.

“The latest Bluetooth technology will be available throughout all of our hotels as well,” Patel said.

NewcrestImage anticipates opening 300 of the 600 guestrooms in 2018, when overall Frisco Station plans call for the opening of a variety of retail, restaurant, office and multifamily housing spaces.

“Let me put this into perspective,” said Patel. “Frisco started as a town on the cattle-drive trail. A hundred years ago, the population was 1,000. In 1980, there were still less than 3,500 people. Since 2000, Frisco has been America’s fastest growing city with a population increase of more than 350%. Frisco Station will add to these growth numbers. NewcrestImage is joining one of the country’s most distinctive and dynamic growth areas.”