Hotels & Resorts — 12 January 2017
Renovation Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina.

By Hope S. Philbrick

As a travel writer, it’s generally advised to steer towards local accommodations and away from brand names.

The proven strategy is that the unusual lends itself to story more easily than the consistent.

Charlotte Marriott City Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a glowing exception; it’s far from typical.

This renovated property is a hospitality experiment, an interactive experience, a swanky space that feels more like an upscale condo community than a national hotel chain.

Innovations are tested in this hotel lab. Marriott tries out new concepts and approaches in the space and uses guest feedback to tweak anything deemed less than ideal. For example, guests weren’t as fond of new computer nesting tables as had been anticipated, so traditional desks took their place in most guestrooms. Successful ideas, like a mobile key app, will be honed and eventually introduced to other Marriott locations. (During my recent visit, a team of Marriott managers from the West Coast was on site to inspect. According to Chef Chris Coleman, that’s a frequent occurrence and not exclusive to Marriott; hotel industry folks from competing brands also come visit.)

“Beta buttons” installed throughout the facility give customers an easy way to offer immediate feedback. Like the personalized check-in process? Tap the button. Enjoy the free breakfast in the M Club? Hit the button. Fond of the demonstration kitchen outside the conference room? Touch the button. And so on. A screen in the lobby reveals which innovations are trending. During my recent visit, food and beverage loomed largest on the leader board.

One travel trend—and one that we at Getaways for Grownups fully embrace—is that a growing number of travelers want to experience some local flair in a hotel, even alongside brand familiarity. In addition to Southern hospitality, Charlotte Marriott City Center showcases local art, local plates, a local coffee roaster, a local chocolatier, and other Charlotte elements and influences throughout the property.

“There’s always a place to plug in,” one staffer pointed out. Indeed, it’s easy to stay connected. The hotel offers dynamic, tech-enabled public spaces such as end tables that discreetly house multiple outlets.

Charlotte Marriott City Center feels brand new, but the building was originally constructed in the 1980s. “We wanted to show that you can take an older property and make it new again,” one sales team member told me. “We also wanted a more residential feel.” Mission accomplished. The coffee shop, restaurant and bar on the lobby level are a genuine community hub. Guestrooms feel like European condos. The ballrooms look equally prepared to host galas and productive meetings (digital panels in the hallways can be illuminated with works of art appropriate to the occasion).

The corner king suite where I stayed offered a seating area distinctly separate from the bed, creating a private space to chat with friends without the awkward “welcome to my bedroom” vibe. An open closet helps ensure you don’t forget anything behind. The platform bed was, as expected, extra comfy. The walk-in shower had dual water jets including an overhead rain shower plus a handheld option. Online connectivity was fast and consistent.

Whatever brings you to Charlotte, Charlotte Marriott City Center offers more than just a place to sleep: It brings you to the front lines of the hottest hospitality industry renovation and innovation.

Essentials…
  • Smoke-free property
  • Valet parking is $25/night
  • If you have an iPhone you can download an app to function as your room key; Android app in development
  • Free Wi-Fi, charge ports and outlets readily available in public spaces throughout the property
  • Walk-in showers replace most bathtubs; if you prefer a bathtub, request one when making a reservation. The showers have dual heads: rainshower plus handheld.
  • Gold and Platinum Marriott members, plus guests of select rooms including corner king suites, can access the M Club Lounge in the lobby; enjoy complimentary breakfast, snacks, drinks and other amenities
  • Stay Well guestrooms (which are located on the same level of the hotel as the fitness center) include air purification, mood lighting, blackout shades, Vitamin C-infused showers and more
  • Coco & The Director is a local coffee bar on the lobby level
  • Stoke & Stoke Bar on the lobby level showcase local ingredients
  • 24-hour room service available
  • Free wine tasting at Stoke Bar every evening at 5:30 p.m.; taste the featured red and/or white wine
  • Coffee maker with basic supplies in each guestroom
  • Mini-refrigerators
  • Cable/satellite TV with ESPN and CNN
  • Fitness center with 600 on-demand workouts including spin classes
  • Located 7 miles from the Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  • Charlotte’s EpiCentre entertainment hub is located a block from the hotel
  • Attractions within walking distance of the hotel include NASCAR Hall of Fame, Mint Museum Uptown, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Discovery Place, Levine Museum of the New South and multiple professional sport venues
More Information…

Charlotte Marriott City Center
100 W. Trade St.
Charlotte NC 28202
703.333.9000

Read our review of Stoke
Read our Q&A with Chef Chris Coleman

– Photos courtesy Charlotte Marriott City Center

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HSP15Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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