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Hilton near SMC not set to open this weekend

Justin Tardiff | Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Hilton Garden Inn next to Saint Mary’s will not open by this weekend’s opening football game against Georgia Tech, despite advertisements that it would.

The hotel, located on Douglas Road, will accept reservations beginning Nov. 1. But it’s possible, said General Manager Nicole Smeltzer, that the hotel could open earlier.

“We may be able to open for [the Sept. 22] Michigan State [home game],” Smeltzer said.

With that game only a month away, construction is continuing on the Gillespie Conference and Special Events Center, located on the northeast side of the hotel site.

The center, which will open by Feb. 1, will be available for formal dinners, conferences, weddings and special events, Smeltzer said. It will seat 750 formal dinner guests and up to 8,400 people when it is used as a banquet center.

The Hilton was built after the Sisters of the Holy Cross were approached by the Holladay Corporation in late 2005 about constructing a 100-unit Hilton Garden Inn Hotel and a 350-seat conference center.

College President Carol Ann Mooney announced the construction plans to faculty, staff and administrators on Aug. 16, 2006.

In order to provide parking without detracting from the College’s main entrance, the College and the Sisters brokered a land exchange to preserve the green space in front of the College.

The College has opted to deed one acre of land west of Angela Drive to the Congregation and will receive in exchange the land east of Madeleva Drive in front of the Welcome Center and Madeleva Hall.

The Congregation’s newly-acquired land will allow additional parking to the north and east of the hotel. The sharp bend in Madeleva Drive has been softened in preparation for the change.

When the construction of the Hilton broke ground near Saint Mary’s campus last fall, students voiced concerns that adding another hotel would detract from the natural beauty of the campus.

Now, questions focus on whether the hotel will provide some of the same services as The Inn at Saint Mary’s, which is unaffiliated with the new hotel.

“I want to know whether or not they will offer packages for graduation [like the Inn at Saint Mary’s],” junior Emily Croft said.

Smeltzer said she didn’t know of any definitive package deals.

“We haven’t decided yet,” she said. “It’s been discussed, but a decision has not been made.”

The Hilton will also contain a bar, a restaurant and a namesake garden.