Downtown Hilton now a Wyndham Grand

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This morning, the hotel across from Point State Park at the north end of the Fort Pitt Bridge, Downtown, is a Wyndham Grand.

A ruling filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court ended the ambiguity around the hotel, which has been foundering since losing its designation as a Hilton hotel. The former Hilton will now be called the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown.

David K. Rudov, the attorney for the corporate owner of the hotel, Shubh Hotels Pittsburgh LLC, said the staff already had new uniforms on site. They were waiting for the judge in the bankruptcy case to approve the agreement for the Wyndham franchise before they donned the new outfits.

"This is great for the hotel," Mr. Rudov said.

The importance of the franchise agreement, known as a "flag" because of the company flag that flies in front of the hotel, is that it opens up the Wyndham reservation system. The hotel has been running without any sort of national reservation system since the Hilton chain kicked it out of its system on Sept. 1.

"This hotel has been running without a flag for two months and three weeks, and it's taken a toll," Mr. Rudov said. "You can't run the biggest hotel in Pittsburgh without a flag."

With 713 rooms plus conference facilities, the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown is the largest hotel in the city. The building's ballrooms and conference rooms make it the largest self-contained convention hotel between Philadelphia and Chicago.

Judge Jeffery A. Deller ruled in favor of Shubh Hotel's motion to become a Wyndham franchise over the objection of the hotel's main lender, Carbon Capital Real Estate II, through its servicer BlackRock Financial Management Inc. The lender argued the hotel was better off as a Hilton franchise than it would be as a Wyndham Grand.

The judge also ruled the hotel was worth $54 million without the franchise agreement and another $4 million with the agreement in place that allows it to be on a national reservation system. Judge Deller, in his ruling, found the lack of the national reservation system cost the hotel about a quarter of its revenues for the past three months. That determination of its value allows the hotel to obtain financing, attorneys in the case said.

The franchise agreement with Wyndham provides for a $1 million loan to the hotel to finish construction of a new pool and spa facility as well as additional conference rooms. Steel superstructure for the improvements has been sitting unfinished for more than a year, making the hotel look to the world like a broken-down car in Pittsburgh's front yard.

Brian G. Rich, the attorney for Kiran C. Patel, a cardiologist and philanthropist from Tampa, Fla., said the hotel could not survive if forced to wait for the lenders to turn in their reorganization plan to get the hotel out of bankruptcy.

"This business and the survival of this hotel rests on us getting out of Chapter 11 [bankruptcy protection] as quickly as possible," Mr. Rich said during a hearing before Judge Deller Tuesday.

The timing of the ruling also was important because the hotel needed a national franchise and national reservation system to be able to attract any of the conventions that keep it operating.

"December is a very critical month for scheduling of conventions and business meetings," said John R. Gotaskie Jr., an attorney for Dr. Patel.

Even though the hotel has a new franchise agreement, it is still being reorganized under the U.S. bankruptcy laws. Judge Deller scheduled a status conference in the case for Dec. 3.


Ann Belser: abelser@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1699.


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