A Memphis, Tenn.-based hotel investor has acquired the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn for about $12.3 million, the latest sign of the hospitality industry's rebound in the Baltimore area.
Wilton D. Hill, owner of the Davidson Hotel Co., intends to invest between $3 million and $5 million to upgrade guest rooms, banquet facilities, the lobby and restaurant at the 392-room hotel, across from the Hunt Valley Mall.
"It's the type of property and market that we're looking for," said Sherri Harrell, a Davidson Hotel vice president. "And the size is very appealing. Mr. Hill is interested in properties with between 300 and 600 rooms, and hotels that depend on both transient and sedentary corporate customers."
Although the 24-year-old hotel -- the largest suburban lodging property in the metropolitan area -- will continue to bear the Marriott name, Davidson Hotel replaced the Bethesda-based chain as its operator after the June 30 sale.
The Hunt Valley property represents the first local management contract for Davidson, which operates 21 hotels containing 4,392 rooms on behalf of Mr. Hill. His other hotels are in cities ranging from Tampa, Fla., to Pittsburgh.
Mr. Hill bought the four-story hotel from Prudential Real Estate Investors, a pension fund adviser controlling roughly $6.5 billion in commercial property and an affiliate of the huge insurance company.
"We believe this is a good time to sell hotels, because the market is liquid and the industry is improving," said Rick Matthews, a Prudential spokesman.
Prudential began marketing the 245 Shawan Road hotel for sale for $13 million in October 1993, while the local lodging industry continued to suffer from corporate downsizing and a lack of potential investors. That marketing was postponed after the hotel failed to attract what Prudential believed were serious bids.
Since then, however, the area's hotels have gained momentum primarily through increases in business travel, which has contributed to improved average occupancy rates. At the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, for instance, average occupancy has risen to 68 percent from 56 percent in October 1993.
Prudential, which bought the Marriott Hunt Valley project in 1983 from McCormick Properties Inc., has also embarked on a hotel-buying spree recently. In early May, it purchased an interest in the 310-room BWI Marriott Hotel, as part of a joint venture with HEI Hotels Inc.
HEI bought the Linthicum hotel for $22 million in April 1994, the last major hotel sale in the Baltimore area. The last notable Baltimore County hotel sale occurred in September 1993, when MIF Realty Ltd. Partnership, of Dallas, bought a 224-suite Embassy Suites hotel in Hunt Valley for $8.3 million.