A Diamond in the Rough, This Hotel Conversion Shines

CHICAGO—Once a diamond in the rough, the Crowne Plaza Chicago SW – Burr Ridge now shines after an above-and-beyond renovation.

The property was initially a Quality Inn and owners—Ssanjay, Suresh and Shanti Suukhramani and Shaalu and Ashwin Devnani—invested $10 million into the transformation. Among the key characteristics of this property are the lighting and residential feel, which help to set the tone for welcoming guests.

“My family acquired this property in 2009 at the bottom of the financial crisis. It was independent at the time and wasn’t on the GDS system. We franchised it to a Quality Inn,” said Ssanjay Suukhramani.

Over the years, Suukhramani tried diligently to secure the needed financing to begin the conversion process. It wasn’t until 2015 that he reached his goal.

“Strategically, my hotel is in the first hotel district outside of Chicago. We are just past the Cook County limits where the taxes are higher, and being here, my taxes are significantly less. The bones of the building are phenomenal, and there’s great visibility due its prime location,” he said.

With previous experience in the roles of designer and general contractor for the development of his parent’s home, Suukhramani felt confident that he could pull off the conversion of his hotel.

“I’m self taught. I’ve always loved construction, I’m creative and I can walk into a space and say, ‘We should move this here and put that there,’” he said. “Last week, I went to see a property and in 30 seconds, I rattled something off. I have natural skills. It’s just one of those things.”

Suukhramani closed financing for the hotel on April 2015, and promptly began construction on Dec. 31, 2015, with a reopening on May 31, 2017. He was on a mission.

“I went above and beyond what the brand requested. My position is that I’m in an affluent suburb and hotels are doing well here, but I was not able to penetrate the market at all based on the condition of my hotel,” he said. “I knew if I brought it up to standard, I’d capture more of the market. Crowne Plaza had [a robust integrated marketing campaign] when we opened, which was great. There were more people out there understanding the brand. Crowne was a perfect fit for this asset.”

Being born and raised in Chicago, Suukhramani is proud of his roots and wanted the hotel’s design to reflect the locale.

“I have true appreciation for the city and its beautiful architecture. Every single piece of artwork is about Chicago architecture. Everything is custom. The palette consists of earth colors, which don’t go out of style. The style is modern contemporary,” he said. “In terms of furnishings in the room, we took out the doors and put barn doors on, there are clocks inside of the mirrors in the bath and we added walk-in showers.”

Lighting has the ability to speak volumes in a design scheme. Suukhramani selected the highest-efficient lighting and new LED lamps throughout the hotel. Not only are they attractive in the space, but they’re low maintenance, too.

“When you walk into the room, the lighting highlights the fabrics and furniture. It’s not so overwhelming that you feel like you’ve walked into a white cloud,” he said.

Chesapeake Hospitality now manages the property, making it the first asset for the firm in Illinois. In addition, the family now reaps the rewards of the hotel’s new look.

“We just got ranked seventh throughout the whole system in customer satisfaction and we haven’t been open a year. We also won renovation of the year at IHG,” he said. “For someone coming through the doors, they may not realize how much it was transformed. My neighbors are ecstatic. I’m very fortunate that my parents always believed in me, even during tough times when the hotel was losing money. I’ve had my eye on the ball and it’s paying off.”