New extended-stay hotels may help Rock County housing market
BELOIT, Wis. (AP) — After five months in a hotel, you’d think Ann Edgecomb would be getting her fill of continental breakfasts, room key cards and “Do Not Disturb” door hangers — especially considering that her own home is just a few miles away on Beloit’s northwest side.
Except that for Edgecomb and her husband, Troy Edgecomb, a long-term hotel stay was a matter of necessity.
After a backyard gas grill started a fire that rendered their house uninhabitable late last year, the couple moved into Home2 Suites by Hilton, a new extended-stay hotel on Beloit’s east side.
In Janesville, TownePlace Suites by Marriott — the city’s first bona fide, extended-stay hotel — is slated to open this month.
The two new hotels are the first of their kind in Rock County. Managers said they seek to fill a growing need for temporary living space in a tight local housing market, the Janesville Gazette reported.
Ann Edgecomb said there were almost no available apartments in Beloit that allowed a short-term lease with pets while they and their two cats, Max and Baby, were displaced, awaiting repairs to their home. The Edgecombs have been in Home2 Suites since January.
Home2 Suites and other extended-stay hotels are pet-friendly and have rooms equipped with special, apartment-like amenities such as one-bedroom suites, 50-inch TVs, full-size refrigerators and kitchen spaces with cooking equipment.
The rooms are designed for people who might need a hotel room for five days to a month or sometimes even longer.
Home2 Suites opened late last year. While the hotel also serves the “transient,” one-night-stay market, all of its 102 rooms are equipped and set up for much longer stays.
Home2 Suites General Manager Roy Ward said the hotel was built with more rooms than many other extended-stay hotels in nearby urban markets, and the company went with more of the one-bedroom, apartment-type suites than usual.
“We felt the demand in this area for multiple-night stays was enough to make those upgrades. We’ve pretty quickly reached projections for occupancy of extended-stay customers,” Ward said.
In his hotel’s first few months of operation, Ward has had at least a dozen guests stay for at least a month.
One major driver is an upswing in the economy, bringing a slew of major projects and a wave of hiring by local industries.
For instance, Ward said, a number of his recent clients have been contractors working on the new power plant in the town of Beloit.
TownePlace Suites General Manager Benjamin Brantmeier, a Janesville resident, said his hotel will key heavily on the quickening economy and a slim housing supply in and around Janesville.
“We do need corporate housing. There are a lot of businesses that are facing that issue. Available houses are few and far between, and the more desirable apartments, there’s just not that much space,” Brantmeier said.
“We definitely want to key on that segment — new company hires coming in town, people looking for a place now who know it could be a number of weeks, a month or longer. That will be a big driver. We want to put those guys up.”
It’s anecdotal, but Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag last year told of his own hiring in late 2013. At a groundbreaking ceremony for TownePlace Suites last spring, Freitag said he spent the first several weeks as city manager living at an extended-stay hotel in Sun Prairie.
Freitag had packed up and moved here from Alaska, but he was still on the hunt for a home. He couldn’t find an apartment that would allow a lease of fewer than 90 days, and at the time Sun Prairie was the closest such lodging available.
Since Freitag’s move, the housing market has become exponentially tighter. The city has tried to spur apartment projects to provide more affordable housing and offer suitable housing that could draw more jobs, more employees and more permanent residents to the area.
One local mortgage lender, Blackhawk Community Credit Union, told The Gazette last year the credit union offered a foreclosed property as stopgap housing for a family who had moved to Janesville to take a new job.
The family had a mortgage deal with another lender fall through. As they worked on a mortgage with Blackhawk, the family needed a place to live, fast.
Brantmeier said the TownePlace Suites’ sales manager will work with local companies who have new hires and need to be arranged extended hotel stays as a stopgap while they look for more permanent housing. He said similar arrangements will be made for medical professionals, doctors or nurses who are visiting staff at local hospitals.
For TownePlace’s transient guests — the one-nighters — the hotel’s rates will be similar to competing local hotels, but Brantmeier said extended-stay patrons will be charged special rates based on the length of their stays.
Brantmeier said his hotel’s goal is that about 80% of available occupancy will be used by people who intend to stay for an extended time. One-night-stay guests will make up the rest of the hotel’s occupancy.
“We’ll still take the traveling youth sports teams, the wedding groups, but, God willing, we’d be full up with extended-stay occupancy, so we’d be forced to turn away the soccer team,” he said.
Brantmeier has managed extended-stay hotels for years, most recently in the Rockford, Illinois, area. More recently, he’s seen other phenomena in the long-term-stay market.
Retirees, he said, and some empty-nesters are selling their homes, and rather than live in apartments, they bounce from one extended-stay hotel to another.
Many of those customers, he said, worked for years in jobs that required travel. They banked points with hospitality companies that own extended-stay hotels.
He said he knows of one extended-stay hotel in the Marriott chain that had a woman stay as a guest for nine years.
Brantmeier called a stay that long “unusual.” He said the longest stays are more like three or four months.
Ann Edgecomb, a gas station and convenience store manager in Beloit, said her two-bed suite at Home2 Suites is roomy enough for her grandkids to visit and stay over.
They’ve made use of the hotel’s hot tub and swimming pool, and her husband enjoys grilling out on the stone-paved outdoor veranda.
The Home2 Suites has been homey and comfortable enough that the Edgecombs’ two cats have begun to find favored hiding spots in the pull-out drawers and cabinets.
But the Edgecombs are nearly ready to leave, even though Ann said the stay at Home2 Suites has been “the best part of having our house catch fire.”
They’re looking forward to turning in their room keys, driving across Beloit and going home to stay.
Information from: The Janesville Gazette, http://www.gazetteextra.com