The story of downtown Olympia’s DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton, formerly the Phoenix Inn, is one of regeneration. However, it’s not just the lodging’s style and brand that have changed since it was built in 2000. The neighborhood itself has seen a resurgence of life.
“There was nothing in this area at that time, no real draw to bring people down here,” explained Michael Davidson, the hotel’s director of sales. “Now there's Swantown Marina, the boardwalk, the Farmers Market, and the Hands On Children's Museum, and there’s nowhere else to stay that’s close to Anthony's restaurants. It's a hidden gemstone; everything here has grown up around us.”
Little wonder, then, that the hotel has easily adjusted its style and service to fit the times in the years since. Plus, the original structure was the genius of entrepreneurs whose lodging and restaurant expertise has kept their businesses thriving for nearly a half-century.
It was 1968 when Bob Smith opened his first VIP’s restaurant, Oregon’s original freeway-accessible, 24-hour coffee shop and casual dining spot that set the mold for today’s national chains. That single diner in Tualatin, Oregon set the stage for a wildly popular conglomerate
that would by the early 1980s include more than 50 stops in five western U.S. states. At this point, VIP’s Restaurants, Inc. had been created, and had also expanded to open four Mexican restaurants.
However, though VIP’s annual gross sales for 1981 were upwards of $41 million, the next year the company sold 35 of its restaurants to Denny’s, 19 of them in Washington state. In 1984, VIP's sold eight more sites in Washington, along with eight Oregon diners, to JB’s Restaurants. The company then jettisoned its last nine establishments in 1989 in order to focus more on its hotel business.
That was the Phoenix Inns, also started by Bob Smith, the first of which was in Portland. Targeting corporate travelers, by 2006 the network had expanded to encompass 14 properties including the downtown Olympia Phoenix Inn, one of the original businesses and the only lodging at the northeast end of downtown. With its modern architectural style, large windows with water views, and amenities like indoor swimming, an exercise room and a whirlpool, the hotel brought a sense of chic, modern elegance to the options for city-center hotels for all types of travelers.
Then, in 2013, came interest by Blackstone, the corporation that owns the Hilton Hotel brands. They bought the Phoenix Inn with plans to reinvent it as a DoubleTree, and added a saltwater pool, wood entryway and high-end linens and bath products to upgrade the facility and amenities to Hilton standards. The DoubleTree
brand “went live” at the site in September, and the hotel is still the only one on Olympia’s waterfront, and a boutique lodging that’s now the third-smallest DoubleTree in the world.
Said Blackstone partner Aimbridge Hospitality group’s regional director of sales and operations Greg Taylor, it was a great fit on many levels.
“For business travelers, there are all of the amenities and the bar, which gives them a place to unwind,” he said. “Plus there’s the 24-hour pool, which they appreciate because they can use it earlier or later when kids aren’t splashing around. And, we’re also within walking distance to the five top local restaurants.”
For leisure travelers and families, the DoubleTree’s location is also a perk.
“Families appreciate the boardwalk, the farmers market, and the Hands On Children's Museum, among many other local attractions,” Taylor added. “And, depending on the age, the DoubleTree is also at the crux of the Olympic Peninsula and I-5, which means easy access to outdoor activities like Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula.”
The DoubleTree isn’t finished with the changes that will provide the final polish on the property, though. Explained sales manager Meghan Harry, the hotel is expanding its catering facilities for meetings, as well as the gift shop.
“What we want to do is to provide the little things for our guests so that they have a quality experience with us,” she said. “Our aim is to make travelers feel human again, to make them always feel warm and welcome.”