Audrey Dorton, a 23-year resident of a condominium atop the downtown Hilton, formerly the Radisson Plaza, gave this assessment of the hotel's extensive renovation: "It is perfectly beautiful."
The grand opening of the Hilton Lexington/Downtown on Wednesday came after a stem-to-stern, $13 million renovation that began in March and included refurbishing the lobby, atrium, Cafe on the Park, ballroom, swimming pool and fitness area, and meeting rooms.
A three-story mosaic fountain with water cascading over steps, similar to the fountain across the street in Triangle Park, is the focal point of the lobby.
"We are thrilled to add such a gorgeous hotel to the brand," said John Carroll, Hilton's director of brand performance, who arrived earlier in the day and officially blessed the hotel as a Hilton.
Returning the compliment, Peter Lewis said, "We couldn't have asked for a better partner." Lewis is president and chief investment officer of Madison W Properties, which bought the hotel last year.
Lewis was attracted to Lexington because of its college town status with a convention center and nearby companies like Lexmark International and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky.
"I was so excited to buy this hotel that sits on this park, in this town, in this community," he said. When he first saw the hotel, Lewis said it struck him as "a neglected gem."
"We are honored, I mean it sincerely, to be part of this community," he said.
David Lord, director of the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the renovated Hilton together with the recently updated Lexington Center and Hyatt Regency make a very strong downtown package for attracting conventions.
Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center Corp., showed he was also acutely attuned to the economic impact of the new hotel. "I love the Hilton because it will drive more business," he said.
Half of the hotel's 367 guest rooms have been refurbished; the remaining ones will be finished in 2010.
Kentucky's scenic landscape and equine heritage are reflected throughout the hotel in murals, paintings, sculptures and photographs, including a floor-to-ceiling photograph of horses on Shadwell Farm by local equine photographer Doug Prather.