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    Tuesday, May 28, 2024

    What’s Going On: Adding an affordable lodging Spark to Mystic

    Lou Carrier, a principal in DHStone Mystic LLC, the owner of the new Spark hotel on Whitehall Avenue in Mystic, shows off a king-bed room on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, three days before the 120-room hotel opened on Thursday. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    The new Spark hotel in Mystic, a former Days Inn, had been renovated and upgraded as of Sept. 11, 2023. All that remained to do was sealcoating the driveway and parking area. Photo by Lee Howard/The Day
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    A newly refurbished 120-room economy hotel opened Thursday on Whitehall Avenue in Mystic just off Interstate 95 where a Days Inn had been ensconced for decades, and ... get ready for this ... it’s branded by Hilton hotels.

    Yes, the Spark hotel off Route 27 turns out to be the first of its kind in the world, and there are many more to come, according to Lou Carrier, president of Distinctive Hospitality Group and one of three partners who also own the upscale Hilton Mystic as well as other lodging properties in New England.

    “People are looking for value,” Carrier told me Monday during a tour of the property. “It’s a perfect fit for Mystic. We have varying degrees of quality in the economy sector here.”

    Hilton, which has been known almost exclusively for upscale and mid-level hotels, is investing large amounts of money around the world to buy up old hotel and motel properties, spiffing them up and rebranding them under the Spark name. It seems to me a brilliant plan given all the 1970s to 1990s lodging facilities built quickly with cinder block and stucco construction in good locations that now are in need of upgrades.

    The Mystic hotel, which was built and operated initially by Len and Mark Wolman and the Waterford Group but has been through a series of owners since then, had fallen on hard times, Carrier said (full disclosure: My father, Kingston Howard, a former president of Days Inns, had planned to open a hotel at the same site in the late 1980s, but his financial backer in the franchise deal tragically died in a plane crash on the way to a planning and zoning meeting here).

    The nearly 5 acre property was bought and renovated after Carrier’s group DHStone Mystic LLC secured a $7.84 million loan from Bank Rhode Island, according to a May edition of the New England Real Estate Journal.

    “We wanted to do something else in town here,” said Carrier, whose Distinctive Hospitality Group also owns the Madison Beach Hotel, as well as a Hampton Inn, a Tapestry by Hilton and a Holiday Inn. “Our experience with Hilton has been so great. ... It has been a phenomenal partner with us.”

    Carrier said he expects many of the top executives to be in attendance Oct. 10 when the Mystic Spark holds its grand opening.

    “It’s gonna be a huge brand,“ Carrier said of Spark by Hilton. ”They expect them to be their No. 1 hotels (in terms of total locations) throughout the platform in about eight years. ... And we’re No. 1. The first in the universe.“

    On site, Carrier was glad to show off the fresh new rooms that include either one king bed or two queen beds, with additional family members accommodated on a pullout sofa. Rooms also include a good-size refrigerator, upgraded internet connectivity and plenty of desk space.

    Spark is also going to be known for its bagel bar, which in Mystic occupies a large space on the second floor.

    The local property was upgraded with 50 adjoining rooms so families can stay in close proximity. It also includes a pool and a revamped exterior look.

    “In Mystic, you’ve got multiple factors that drive people in,” Carrier said, citing the Mystic Aquarium, Mystic Seaport, the casinos and the excellent restaurant scene. “Mystic has the makings of the renaissance that happened in Portland (Maine) and Portsmouth (New Hampshire). There’s been a real elevation in the market. ... It’s spectacular.”

    Carrier said he expects to employ about 30 people at the Mystic Spark, though numbers could vary seasonally. The average room rate, he said, would be about $120 a night, and as of Monday the hotel was already two-thirds booked for the first day of operation Thursday.

    “It’s already taking off,” Carrier said. “It’s really encouraging.”

    Lee Howard is The Day’s business editor. To reach him, email l.howard@theday.com.

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