April 30, 2018 | By Chuck Carlson
Johnathon Naracon, general manager of Albion’s brand-new Courtyard by Marriott hotel, looked at the front desk computer recently and smiled.
Albion College’s Commencement is May 5 and he could see that all was well, noting that the 75-room property was nearly full with family and friends of graduating seniors for that crucial Friday-Saturday window.
In years past, beyond the town's smaller bed-and-breakfasts, those same moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandparents and great uncles would have had to stay outside the city limits for the opportunity to attend the grand occasion.
The hotel, eight years in the imagining and nearly two in the construction, opened in March and is operating at 200 S. Superior St. In a bigger way, it stands ready to do its part to help with the revitalization of downtown Albion.
“That’s entirely how we look at it,” said Charles Holsworth, vice president of hospitality for Marquette, Mich.-based Veridea Group, which manages the hotel. “The hotel is in some ways the next step, following the redevelopment of the Bohm Theater, as the catalyst for the downtown’s revitalization. It is a big step for the entire Albion community. We didn’t want this to be a one-off. We pick small markets intentionally. We like small markets and we like markets that have a higher education presence. We absolutely think hotels help revitalize communities. We wanted to put something in Albion that raised the bar. We wanted to build on the strong reputation of Albion College, and we felt the Courtyard by Marriott was the right franchise to do that.”
The hotel was the brainchild of Dr. Samuel Shaheen, ’88, a Saginaw surgeon and real estate developer who has long sought to help communities battle back from an economic downturn. First approached in 2010, the idea for a boutique hotel was finally decided upon and, in cooperation and collaboration with the City of Albion and the College, groundbreaking was held for the hotel in May 2016.
“The partnership with the College is integral to this project’s success,” Holsworth said. “The College has been an absolutely spectacular partner. From the first visit with them two years before the hotel opened, they’ve done a fantastic job of presenting this as part of the College and part of the community. This partnership between the private and public sectors has the potential to be a strong catalyst for Albion’s continued growth and success.”
Albion College President Mauri Ditzler agreed.
"We have said often that when the community of Albion succeeds, so does Albion College," he said. "This is another substantial step toward that goal. We could not be happier with the final result and hope that the Courtyard will flourish for years to come."
For Veridea, whose president is another Albion grad, Robert Mahaney, ’80, the Albion Courtyard builds on the company’s strong relationship with Marriott. Veridea owns and operates two other Marriott hotels (Residence Inns) in Montana and an assortment of well-known hotel franchises in the Upper Peninsula, in Marquette and Houghton.
Mahaney recalls the time he was the business manager of the student newspaper, The Pleaid, and he'd walk up and down Superior Street looking for businesses to buy ads for the paper.
"It was a great experience for me and gave me my initial exposure to business," said Mahaney, who majored in political science and economics and management. "To see the slow demise of downtown Albion over the years was distubing, and now to play a part in its rebirth is very rewarding."
He sees another positive aspect as well.
"By having a quality lodging opportunity, downtown Albion can serve as a linchpin to draw other businesses," Mahaney said. "And it changes the perception of downtown Albion. It spurs confidence and development."
For more information about Albion’s Courtyard by Marriott, or to reserve a room, visit the hotel website