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Hotel Joins Hilton, Alters Parking Rules

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Lisa Pierce, front desk supervisor for Capitol Plaza, assists a guest. Photo by Tom Brown

The owners of Montpelier’s Capitol Plaza Hotel and Conference Center say their impending affiliation with the Hilton corporation will allow the facility to join a worldwide booking network and lure more corporate customers. It will also add stability to the family’s efforts to build a new Hilton-branded hotel downtown, they said.

Fred Bashara Sr. said the 64-room hotel will join a growing line of about three-dozen boutique Hilton properties and will be rebranded this spring as Capitol Plaza Hotel Montpelier, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. The Bashara family will continue to own and operate the property.

The Tapestry line includes independent, upscale hotels that retain their local nature as opposed to more typical chain properties, according to Hilton’s website. Existing Tapestry franchises are in Cambridge, Mass., New York City, Seattle, and about 30 other cities.

“These are upscale hotels,” Bashara said. “Higher up than [Hilton] Garden-type hotels, more like Doubletree or better. Tapestry properties are one of a kind, individual. We will have a design that will be Montpelier, state of Vermont, not a cookie-cutter.”

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Bashara said the affiliation with Hilton will allow corporate booking agents to more easily reserve rooms and hold conferences at Capitol Plaza, and will allow guests to take advantage of Hilton points programs.

“This will give us an opportunity to bring more people into Montpelier,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation that we feel will be great for all of us.”

In joining the Hilton network, the Basharas also received assurance that Hilton would be patient as a legal challenge to a proposed city-owned parking garage plays out in court. The Basharas in 2017 proposed the construction of an 81-room Hilton-branded Hampton Inn and Suites hotel. The project was eventually tied to the building of a 348-space parking garage to be owned by the City. Voters in November 2018 approved a $10.5 million bond for the garage, but a citizen appeal of the Development Review Board’s approval has stalled both projects while the matter is adjudicated by the state environmental court. A May trial date has been set.

Parking Changes Coming

While the hotel will be renovating its lobby and complying with Hilton’s network requirements over the next few months, residents will see a more immediate change within the next couple of weeks.

Bashara is installing parking gates at both entrances to his roughly 200-space parking lot behind Capitol Plaza—off State Street by Northfield Savings Bank and off Taylor Street next to the Transit Center. The intent is to give the hotel and conference center more control over its lot for guests and conference-goers, he said.

“Our hotel is open 24/7, 365 days a year,” Bashara said. “I have people on weekends, nights, and everything else, and my customers have to come first.”

The lot will be available for paid public parking about “60 to 70 percent of the time,” Bashara said. Signs will indicate when the lot is full or being reserved for conferences and guests, he said.

The cost for public parking has not been set, Bashara said, noting that city meters charge $1 per hour and have a two-hour limit. The lot will have an 8-hour limit, he said. Upon entering the gate, drivers will take a ticket and pay the amount due on exit. Cash will not be accepted at the exit gates, but walk-up pay stations that accept cash will be available inside the hotel, Bashara said.

A grace period of 15 minutes will be allowed for customers of Northfield Savings Bank who wish to use the drive-through window, and the parking spaces in front of NSB’s entrance will not be affected.

Christ Church owns 12 parking spots behind its building, and a code system will determine when those 12 spaces are occupied by church users, he said. The 15-minute grace period will accommodate food deliveries to the church, he said.

The City of Montpelier formerly leased 50 spaces in the Capitol Plaza lot with a time limit of four hours. It will no longer pay for those spots, which will be available to the public under the lot’s new conditions.

Tom Brown is contributing editor of The Bridge. ..... You can contact him at tom@montpelierbridge.com