Two years after Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened a call center in the former Wichita Mall, a couple of Wichitans are working to bring the first Starwood hotel to the city.
Great Plains Ventures president Susayn Brandes and vice president of development Marque Peer, who are sister and brother, are opening a 127-room Aloft Wichita Northeast hotel on their property north of K-96 and just east of Oliver, where their Great Plains Industries and Aerospace Systems and Components also are.
“The hotels are just fabulous,” says longtime Wichita hotelier Jim Korroch, president and CEO of AG Holdings. “Very, very chic.”
Korroch is helping Brandes and Peer through the development of the hotel and then will act as asset manager to ensure whatever management company they hire does its job.
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Aloft is what’s called a lifestyle hotel and is geared to helping guests socialize.
“It’s a more contemporary, casual feel,” Brandes says. “It’s got a more Millennial vibe in my mind.”
“Kind of cool,” Peer says.
“I’ll just come out and say it: It has a great bar,” Brandes says.
“Some would describe this hotel as a hotel built around a bar,” Korroch says.
He says it’s not about drinking but “more just a wonderful feeling to get to know people and come out of your room.”
“The research shows that the Millennials want to spend more time socializing in the hotel,” he says. “So much has changed in the way that hotels lay out and their feel and, frankly, who they’re focused on.”
Brandes says there’s a large open area that extends through the hotel to the outdoors.
“It’s almost like a living room, if you will, that opens into a backyard,” she says.
Brandes says she and her brother considered a number of hotel brands before deciding on Aloft.
“It’s a very rapidly growing brand, and we thought it would fit well with the Millennials and the business traveler,” Peer says.
There will be a large workout facility and an event area for up to probably 250 people.
“We think it’s going to be a nice meeting area,” Brandes says. “I’m anxious to use it for meetings for us.”
The 5-story hotel will be ready in fall 2016. It will be on about two and a half acres in the northwest part of the 80-acre Ventures Business Park.
“It’s north of 96 but still highly visible,” Peer says of the hotel.
Brandes and Peer's father, the late Charlie Peer, purchased the property more than three decades ago to give his company room to grow.
“Our dad envisioned this as being mostly industrial,” Peer says.
“As manufacturing has changed over the years, big plants aren’t as critical … as maybe when my dad bought the land,” he says.
In 2012, Brandes and Peer partnered with developer Jason Van Sickle and his J. Van Sickle & Co. to develop the 216-unit Chisholm Lake Apartments.
Brandes and Peer also sold almost three acres to QuikTrip, which built a store there early this year.
The hotel is the latest in their plan for more nonindustrial development.
“We just thought this would be a better use of the land,” Peer says. “With the apartments and selling the property to QuikTrip, we’re trying to make this property into a mixed-use development. That’s good frontage there that we think would work well.”
Neighbors were a consideration, too, Peer says.
Koch Industries, Wichita State University and Bel Aire are all nearby.
“It’s a diamond in the rough to be across the street, literally, from the worldwide headquarters of Koch Industries … and so close to Wichita State University, too, so close to the Innovation Center,” Korroch says. “I really like it.”
Peer says he and his sister plan for other retail uses to follow.
“We’re hoping to have a restaurant pad available as part of this,” Peer says.
“We would hope that this would encourage it,” he says of the hotel. “Activity creates activity.”
Korroch has sold a number of hotels in the last year.
“I like this position a lot,” Korroch says. “I like helping people that aren’t in the hotel business now. I like helping them get to know the ropes … learning the business.”
He says it’s a fun time.
“I get to work with a great family … and help them develop and then operate a fantastic, cutting-edge hotel.”