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Roadside Motel Makeover

Roadside Motel Makeover
October 6, 2021

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Have you ever taken a cross-country road trip? It has remained on my bucket list as other trips–backpacking Europe, destination weddings, solo trips to Vietnam and Mexico–have gotten checked off. One aspect that is both charmingly out-of-the-norm and a bit ew-inspiring str the roadside motel lodgings that are ubiquitous on a cross-country trip (in my budget range). A turning point was Schitt’s Creek (if you haven’t seen it, run, don’t walk). The homely Schitt family is expelled from their mansion and forced to reside in the motel of the only asset not foreclosed upon by the banks, a town called Schitt’s Creek. Lovely. 

The family’s industrious father, who turned a movie-rental business into a household name (think Blockbuster, not Netflix), ends up striking a partnership with the motel’s heiress, a beer-guzzling, girl-next-door-in-the-motel type. They slowly improve the “brand” and decor, finally sparking up the “No” light on the Vacancy sign.

It turns out there are many industrious folks who have taken a lesson from the show and turned the outdoor hallways of a motel into a selling point utilizing pandemic-era regulations and polished midcentury modern details.

The up-and-comers include the Norsdale in Ulster County, New York. Rather than a simple polishing of the existing cabin vibe, the partners decided to make something completely new, with a color scheme of bright blues, yellows, and magentas. 

The owners of the Sylvan Motor Lodge have cleaned up 10 rooms in Hillsdale, New York. Rather than piecemeal room rentals, the couple owners rent the entire property for $1,750 a night. 

Last summer, two couples in their thirties paid $550K for a motel with 44 rooms, an Olympic-size pool, and a restaurant/bar. They plan to spend $1-2MM on updates and hope to open the Terrace Motel by next summer.

For private moteliers, they may not be shaking in their boots just yet over the possibility of a chic-motel takeover. Motel 6 is what most of us have in mind when we think of motels. The brand has been acquiring and developing properties all over the U.S. and Canada since 1986. The Blackstone Group acquired Motel 6 in 2012 for $1.9BN.

Then there are the hotel groups making a financial rebound from the pandemic, allowing trusting New Yorkers to choose chic lobby over retro-chic. Preferred Hotel Group has been on a spree of starting new hotels, adding 51 locations in 2020-2021 alone. Makeready Hospitality can make any destination the IT destination with its retro-bougie stylings. The Emeline in Charleston, South Carolina, is Southern Hospitality meets vinyl DJ cool and could rival the historic Jane Hotel in the West Village.

Check out this NYT article for more on this topic (plus some hotels you can buy).

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