A Publication of WTVP

Hip and historic, modern and chic… celebrating its one-year anniversary.

July 18, 2014 was a date in history for the Marriott hotel complex in downtown Peoria, Illinois. After years of negotiation, renovation, restoration, creation and determination, the Courtyard Downtown opened for its first day of business, while a new, locally known management team, put together by EM Properties CEO Gary Matthews and architect/partner Monte Brannan, assumed the management of the adjacent Pere Marquette, creating a world-class hotel complex downtown.

“This team worked miracles just in opening the Courtyard,” Matthews says. “What normally requires six months of pre-opening sales and operations tasks—they did in three weeks!” As the Pere Marquette management transitioned from Marriott International, 402 brand-new hotel rooms and suites were attached to the Peoria Civic Center. This is what meeting planners, civic leaders, hospitality specialists and regional clients have been asking to happen for years in the Peoria market. “The wish was fulfilled,” Matthews adds. And then, the real work began.

A Cornerstone Achievement
“What we have achieved in the past 12 months is incredible,” explains Joe Lomonaco, managing director of the hotel complex. “The hotels are still Marriott flag properties and therefore, we have to meet all brand standards for both properties. Regular audits are our report cards. We credit the focus and dedication of the leadership team and our associates for the success we have experienced this year.”

By December 2014, the Pere Marquette had achieved a 93.4-percent score in Marriott’s quality assurance program, placing it among the top five percent of all Marriott hotels in the country, while the Courtyard achieved an 87.3-percent score on its first audit—exceptional for such a new property. In addition, the Pere was awarded a four-diamond rating by AAA, and Matthews received the Landmarks Illinois Presidents Rehabilitation Award for its restoration. Now 89 years old, the hotel remains on the National Historic Registry.

This complex is the cornerstone of what is hoped to be a revitalization of downtown Peoria. And with a $20-million annual revenue budget, it is having a significant economic impact, generating impressive hotel and sales tax revenues for the city.

Community Success Stories
What the ownership has created is unique opportunities for guests and the community at large. While both brands have specific standards, the two properties share services, so guests at the Courtyard can enjoy the Great Room lounge or Table 19 in the Pere, and bill the charges back to their room. In addition, guests from both hotels have access to the indoor pool and private fitness centers, as well as the Courtyard Bistro, which offers a “grab-and-go” concept for breakfast and light fare in the evening. The operation departments for both properties cross over; the sales and catering teams sell both hotels.

Table 19 is another great story. Chef Aaron Flores and his culinary team continue to impress guests—and challenge themselves—to create down-home yet sophisticated offerings, regardless of the meal time. Its farm-to-table lunch service, added last fall, has proven very successful, while the recent creation of “Food for a Cause” highlights the chef’s passion for locally-sourced products. In addition to working with local farmers, Table 19 now features fresh produce grown in EP!C’s garden in Peoria—a way for guests to enjoy fresh produce while supporting EP!C clients and the services it provides to persons with disabilities in the community.

Table 19 is not just for hotel guests—the local community is invited to dine there as well. The restaurant offers a warm, comfortable atmosphere with a rich history dating back to the original Pere Marquette Hotel in 1926. The epitome of modern elegance in its time, it quickly became the place to go for every special occasion, and Table 19 was its most sought-after table. To honor this memory and tradition, the restaurant was given its name. Whether for an evening out, dinner before a concert or the symphony (when special menus are offered to ensure guests are not late for the shows), or Sunday brunch, Table 19 offers delicious fare—and parking is always complimentary.

Continuing the Tradition
Celebrities and dignitaries made the Pere popular, and with the recent $100-million investment, the downtown complex remains in high demand. The sales and catering teams work closely with the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Peoria Civic Center, as well as various associations, corporate and sports clients, and community organizations to showcase its luxury rooms and services, as well as its beautiful meeting space and ballrooms. By leveraging regional relationships and Marriott brand loyalty, large groups are coming back to the region and filling hotel rooms.

While occupancy is driven in large part by convention and corporate clients, the leisure traveler is an important part of the hotels’ business model. Over the years, the Pere has been proud to host many families with long traditions and memories of events held at the hotel—generations of celebrations—and today, all the services are in place for events from corporate meetings to over-the-top weddings. The Pere Marquette and Courtyard offers a great, family-friendly alternative when family or friends come to visit, and it’s the perfect location for a weekend “staycation,” dinner celebration, Sunday brunch or cocktails with friends—a true gem in which the community can take pride.

One year later, the Marriott hotel complex is on the map and on the right path. It seems visions do come true. iBi

M J Schettler is director of communications for the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette/Courtyard Downtown.