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Hotel and Conference Center Opens on Route 120 in Lebanon

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 5/26/2018 11:34:10 PM
Modified: 5/26/2018 11:34:11 PM

Lebanon— After 19 years — and a zoning change, a public infrastructure upgrade and a few shifts in amenities to accommodate customers’ changing preferences (hot tubs out, fancy fitness equipment in) — a new hotel and conference center has finally opened on Route 120 in Lebanon.

The Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center, a $12.3-million joint project from Upper Valley developer Jay Campion and New Hampshire-based hotel development company XSS Hotels, on May 1 opened its doors and has already been booking groups for its banquet room.

The 100-room hotel, which boosts room capacity in the Route 120 hotel corridor by more than 40 percent and offers a sorely needed 6,500-square-foot event space for the region, hopes to capitalize upon demand generated by Dartmouth College, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hypertherm, FujiFilm Dimatix and the cluster of companies around Centerra business park.

“It feels good,” Campion said last week about the opening ahead of the official “ribbon” cutting this coming Thursday. “I feel especially good about how well it turned out. I would have gotten unbelievable grief if it hadn’t.”

Campion’s involvement in the project extends back to 1999 when he began assembling parcels of property along Route 120 near Exit 19 on Interstate 89. The site had previously been occupied variously by a tractor-trailer garage, a dairy bar, a small apartment complex and for several years by a hockey rink at which high schools held practices. Then in 2004 Campion teamed with Mark Stebbins and Mark Schleicher, both Dartmouth alums who are partners in XSS Hotels, a major hotel development and management company in the Northeast, to develop a hotel at the site.

Over the ensuing years they worked with the city of Lebanon to change the zoning to include permitted use for a conference center, switched their plan from an extended-stay hotel to a hotel with conference center and waited another three years while the city completed replacing sewer lines along Route 120 and installing water line extensions to serve the structure.

“The big drivers are going to be the college and the hospital and weekend tourism,” said Stebbins. “But we expect significant business for the banquet center by getting people to move banquets here, which will bring more demand for the hotel rooms.”

How successful the Hilton Garden will be in wooing away the banquet business from the Hanover Inn, Fireside Inn in West Lebanon and the Hampton Inn and Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction — all which have banquet facilities — remains to be seen, but Campion said there have already been several events held at the Garden Inn, including a D-H leadership conference for nurses and another for health professionals on Parkinson’s disease.

Campion said the Hilton Garden Inn concept encompasses many of the features business travelers expect in a hotel these days: expanded fitness facilities, indoor heated pool, free wi-fi, a 24-hour “business center” with remote printers, and enhanced electronic security.

Original plans back in the early 2000s that contemplated hot tubs — once considered appealing in new hotels — were dropped a long time ago, he said.

Although the new hotel carries the Hilton Garden Inn name for branding, marketing and reservation system purposes, the MaClean, Va.-based hotel giant Hilton Worldwide Holdings has no ownership or management involvement in the Lebanon facility. Instead, it is managed and staffed by Colwen Hotel Management of Portsmouth, N.H., on behalf of owners Campion and XSS Hotels.

Stebbins said the hotel has hired about 45 people full time.

Campion also owns an adjoining 200 acres subdivided into four lots that he envisions one day developing as well.

“We’re looking at symbiotic-type uses that would fit well at that location,” he said, including a car wash.

“There are 22,000 cars that drive past there every day,” Campion said. “Some of them need washing.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.




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