Real estate investor and developer Paul Coury has a fascination with historic buildings. Coury is the founder of the Ambassador Hotel Collection, which specializes in turning storied properties into luxury hotel offerings. The collection's latest project focused on turning the former Gate City National Bank Building in Kansas City, Mo., into a 43-room boutique hotel.
"By nature, historic properties end up delivering a more unique experience for a hotel," says Coury. "If you pick the right building, the character of the building can dictate the design and give it a feel that is a lot more special than a new building."
The Ambassador Kansas City, which opened to the public this month, marks the fifth historic hotel development project for Coury and his team. Coury was attracted to the architecture of the building and understood its potential as a lodging property.
"The facade is a templar design, which is a very rare architectural style. It's just not something you see very often, especially in the Midwest," he says. "We spent a lot of time really thinking through the design and getting it right. I think it went through 10 permutations before landing on what it is now."
Like many historic renovation projects, the production schedule for the Ambassador Kansas City ran into some trouble when the demolition crew discovered some structural issues that needed to be addressed in order to get the property up to modern-day codes.
"This project was very tough," says Coury. "In this particular case the building was not completely demoed when we bought it. Once we demoed the parts we needed to, it revealed a lot of issues that we had not anticipated. It took a lot of reengineering and a lot of design changes."
The finished product reveals sleek and modern interior design by Los Angeles designer Deborah Gear. Free wireless Internet service is available throughout the hotel, and guestrooms are appointed with flat-panel HD TVs, iPhone docking stations, and marble bathrooms featuring walk-in showers. The hotel also contains event space for corporate meetings or private celebrations and a signature lobby restaurant called Reserve.
Coury believes the standards of the Ambassador Hotel Collection will make his properties leaders in the Midwest market.
"We're going to keep focusing on the Midwest and looking primarily at the historic buildings," he says. "The goal would be to build the brand to 10 quality properties in the Midwest and then start to look outside of that market. But initially, we're focused on this area because it's an underserved market."
In addition to the newly opened Kansas City location, the Ambassador Hotel Collection includes a property in Tulsa, Okla., and has already begun work on a hotel in Wichita, Kan., which is expected to open in December of this year. The brand also has a contract for a property in Oklahoma City.
"Because we're small, we can make decisions very quickly and design each property separately," says Coury. "Each market is different in what it wants and what it will react to. I think we're good at interpreting those trends and then translating them into hotels that the market will accept and use."