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Clarion's new owners hope to provide 'unique experience'

May 11, 2008|By JILLIAN E. KESNER

The couple who recently bought the Clarion Hotel is hoping to provide "a unique experience" for their guests.

The hotel at 901 Dual Highway recently was purchased by Martin and Lata Milner of Emerald Hospitality Group.

Since purchasing the hotel, the Milners have committed millions of dollars in renovations to the facility, including a new roof, new hot-water system, renovated rooms and suites, and a major refurbishing of the indoor pool and atrium.

While the Clarion often provides rooms for the conference center attached to the hotel, the conference center, as well as Barefoot Bernie's Bar and Grille, is not owned by the Clarion. The Milners own the hotel and the attached "tower," which houses the meeting rooms.

"The whole concept is to tie business and pleasure," said Lata Milner, director of sales and marketing. "We're about providing a unique experience."

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She said her husband, who is general manager of the hotel, is the visionary behind it.

"He sees things differently than I may see them," Lata said.

The facility includes 30,800 square feet of meeting space with eight meeting rooms, one of which will be designated for free usage by city organizations and charitable groups.

When renovations to the atrium are complete, it will include a tropical-themed oasis with a climate-controlled atrium, a heated pool and Buddha bar. The area already is being booked for weddings, reunions and parties.

Six suites have been added, with designs including elements of earth, wind, water and fire, as well as a Signature Emerald Hospitality Suite and a Junior M&M-themed suite.

The renovated business center will include an executive business suite complete with a small boardroom.

Rooms also are being renovated with new granite counters, additional lighting, carpeting, flat-screen televisions and new air conditioning units.

"It's more than a hotel," Lata Milner said. "We're trying to up the service as well."

Part of that service will include a new health club, which will include a new massage room.

"Whatever the guest wants, we're going to try to provide," she said.

When the couple bought the hotel in October, seven exterior doors had to be replaced as a security measure.

The Milners moved from Australia last June to be closer to family. Together, the couple have a background in project marketing development, law, real estate and accounting, and are involved in all aspects of the operations of the hotel.

"If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right," Lata Milner said. "We're spending more than projected because we're not going to do anything halfway. We don't procrastinate. We're moving forward."

Karen Kanzler, the Clarion's assistant general manager, has been with the hotel for 14 years and has seen three different ownerships.

"I've never seen changes like this," Kanzler said. "It's rewarding. This place will be the talk of the town."

Only 64 of the 147 rooms and two wings of the hotel currently are open. The Milners are hoping to finish the project June 30.

"Not just a renovation," Lata Milner said. "It's a total redo."

A grand opening celebration will be July 24. On July 25 at 10 a.m., the public will be invited to tour the property and be able to eat breakfast at the Clarion.

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