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Downtown Duluth's Holiday Inn plans $4 million renovation

Duluth's Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites is beginning a two-year, $4 million renovation. "We're excited about it. We feel it's going to be good for us, for the downtown and for Duluth's hospitality industry," said Mark Emmel, president of Lion Hot...

Duluth's Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites is beginning a two-year, $4 million renovation.

"We're excited about it. We feel it's going to be good for us, for the downtown and for Duluth's hospitality industry," said Mark Emmel, president of Lion Hotel Group.

A subsidiary of Labovitz Enterprises, Lion Hotel Group owns and operates the hotel and Holiday Center.

"As Duluth's largest convention center-hotel, it's important to all of Duluth's hospitality community including the DECC that we have a very good product that's competitive statewide in order to retain the current conventions we have as well as attract new conventions," Emmel said.

Visit Duluth's director of sales, Anna Tanski, agreed.

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"It's vital for us to have properties that remain current and updated" when selling Duluth to event planners, she said. "Our clients have the expectations that facilities are updated. It's becoming more and more competitive."

The renovations will include upgrades to elevators, the Great Lakes Ballroom and other meeting rooms. The lobby area will be updated to include an expanded fitness center and the addition of convenience market. And the corridors and each of the hotel's 345 guest rooms will be completely renovated. Approximately half of the guest rooms will be renovated next winter, with the remainder renovated during the winter of 2013-14.

"Those are going to be complete renovations," Emmel said. "They will be a brand new room when they are finished. These renovations will ensure that we have as good a product as any hotel in the state."

The hotel opened in 1978 as the Best Western Normandy. In 1982, Labovitz Enterprises purchased the 240-room hotel and converted it to a Holiday Inn. In 1990, Labovitz Enterprises added the Atrium addition, adding 113 suites and rooms to the hotel.

On a smaller scale, renovations have continued. In recent years the Holiday Inn has received more than $1 million in upgrades, including new signs, HD televisions and mattresses.

"We have been consistently doing renovations to stay current," Emmel said.

The Holiday Inn is not the only hotel in Duluth to undertake renovations in recent years. The Duluth Radisson Hotel did a major makeover in 2010, Canal Park Lodge was rebuilt, and the Sheraton Duluth was built in the eastern end of downtown.

"You have to stay sharp to remain competitive," said Roger Wedin, director of policy for the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce.

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The Holiday Inn renovation is "another indication that downtown Duluth remains a healthy and attractive place to do business," said Wedin, who also mentioned the Sheraton, Enbridge's announcement that it will expand downtown and George Sherman's interest in developing the NorShor Theatre.

"If you look up and down the street, even in tough economic times we have committed owners that are willing and able to spend money on their properties," he said.

In addition to the renovation, Lion announced Tuesday that it has hired a Duluth native as the hotel's new general manager. Gerry Goldfarb, a 1986 graduate of Duluth East High School, will start June 11. He has more than 19 years in hospitality experience outside of Duluth.

"We conducted a nationwide search and we feel fortunate to have someone with Gerry's experience and leadership joining our hotel team," Emmel said.

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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