Lexington Hotel & Conference Center finds new home on Riverwalk

Lexington Hotel & Conference Center finds new home on Riverwalk

Since it was built in 1981, the Southbank hotel at 1515 Prudential Dr. has sported many brands – Sheraton, Radisson, and Wyndham. As of June 1, a new brand was added to that list: Lexington Hotel & Conference Center, Jacksonville Riverwalk.

In early June, LexDevCoJax, Inc., an affiliate of Vantage Hospitality Group of Coral Gables, purchased the former Wyndham Hotel from Torchlight Loan Services LLC, a Miami company that specializes in distressed property, which purchased the mortgage in 2012. The price was $9 million. The property had previously been foreclosed upon and bank-owned.

The sale was brokered by Brown Nester Hospitality Services, which represented the buyer. The Lexington Hotel & Conference Center will be managed by Cal-Vegas Ltd. Both Brown Nester and Cal-Vegas are affiliates of Vantage Hospitality. The Vantage Group, which offers a collection of mid to upscale lodging facilities, is considered worldwide to be a Top 10 hospitality firm with more than 1,200 properties.

The five-story, 323-room hotel sits on 5.8 acres of prime Southbank real estate and features 35,000 square feet of event space, second only to the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Included in the building is a 10,000-square-foot grand ballroom and the only rooftop amphitheater in North Florida. Other amenities include an onsite restaurant and lounge, a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor pool with beverage service, free Wi-Fi and a 24-hour business center.

In a telephone interview, Vantage Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer Bernie Moyle said Vantage was interested in the Wyndham property because it wanted to establish the Lexington brand in Florida’s largest city, which is growing and making an effort to revitalize its urban core.

“Jacksonville is a unique city with a different mix of business more than the other large cities in Florida. The city in general is steady with a solid foundation,” he said, adding that Jacksonville is attractive because it is one of the top 50 hotel markets in the United States. “As the tide rises, all the ships rise. There’s lots going on in Jacksonville, on both sides of the river.”

Moyle also regards the Lexington’s location as plumb because it is on the river with easy access to downtown by way of the Main Street Bridge, water taxi and skyway, which is just across the street from the property. “They’re putting in a new exit of I-95 nearby so it is good location,” he said.

Top down renovation

The hotel is surrounded by 10.37 acres of land owned by the Riverwalk Jacksonville Development LLC, which has been for sale for several years. The surrounding land has been divided into three parcels, which are being marketed by Collier’s International for $14.9 million.

Lexington_01Moyle said Vantage was not interested in also buying the surrounding land because the property it purchased is sufficient for its needs.

“We’re hoteliers, not residential developers,” he said. “We have an agreement with Riverwalk Jacksonville Development Company to use one or more of their lots,” he said, noting if there is a “capacity issue” with parking, his hotel will use a parking lot on the adjacent property between the Duval County School Board building and the hotel, as well as space rented from the city in a nearby garage.

Already the hotel is in the process of getting new signage, having covered the Wyndham signboards with a temporary Lexington sign and logo. Over the next 18 months the hotel will receive an extensive renovation, incorporating a nautical theme to honor the St. Johns River and the U.S. Navy, Moyle said.

“We want to give the property the personality that belongs there. We want to give it a proper conservative naval look,” he said, noting that discussions with an interior designer commenced at the end of June and many of the colors used throughout the hotel will be deep blues and shades of teal. “The area has a long history with the military and maritime industry, so we plan to pay homage with art, décor and monuments throughout the property,” he said.

The lobby will be reconfigured to incorporate elements of Lexington’s prototype. Better traffic patterns will be developed and a covered, open-air extension with fireplace and water features will be added. Guest rooms and bathrooms will include new furniture as well as modern conveniences and be remodeled to incorporate a more contemporary design. The meeting areas will be redecorated and include new flooring, walls and lighting. The renovation process will transpire one wing at a time from the roof on down.

Changes to the exterior include replacement of the entire roof and all windows, an updated more modern porte cochere, new entry drive and new landscaping. The pool area will be changed to incorporate a “Florida-style” resort atmosphere and to become more “guest friendly.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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