Sixteen months and $15 million later, the Sheraton Chapel Hill Hotel is back in business.
On Sept. 7, the hotel — known as the Sheraton Europa until ATMA Hotel Group bought it in 2019 — reopened its doors to the public following an all-encompassing renovation. With these updates, the hotel hopes to connect travelers with the community and provide event space in Chapel Hill.
Located just 10 minutes from the heart of UNC’s campus, the Sheraton Chapel Hill now boasts 172 redesigned guest rooms, a contemporary bar and restaurant, soundproof booths in the lobby, new air-filtering safety protocols, a 7,000-square-foot rooftop deck, full outdoor patio and a state-of-the-art fitness center.
“It was essentially gutted and put back together,” Mark Nelson, corporate director of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Chapel Hill, said. “For somebody who saw it previously and somebody who saw it today, they won’t recognize it.”
Nelson said that he sees this hotel as a long-term project that embodies the vibrant, growing community of Chapel Hill.
“This area is going to continue to be really powerful — an almost economically isolated area that is consistently a high-performing destination,” he said.
The hotel is one of 60 in the world that boast this new Sheraton style, which the company says is aimed to enhance community involvement and connectivity, Nelson said. The new “Community Table” with individual charging ports allows up to 10 visitors to sit together and complete work. Nelson said he believes this deliberate design will be alluring for single travelers looking to embrace the community.
In addition, the lobby features a reimagined community public area that aims to bring visitors together with a coffee bar and central seating.
“The idea was to design it like a modern-day public square," Nelson said. "It’s a gathering spot like the Pit."
Manish Atma, president and CEO of ATMA Hotel Group, said Chapel Hill has lacked a premier venue for corporations to collectively gather. He said the Sheraton Chapel Hill can fill that void.
With 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the Sheraton Chapel Hill has already attracted traveling sports teams and larger organizations, Atma said.
“It is probably the premier full-service hotel in Chapel Hill right now,” Atma said.
Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, said she believes these new renovations will be a long-term boost to Chapel Hill’s growing economy.
“It thrusts this area into a new market and allows us to go after larger meetings,” she said.
Paolicelli said the renovations aim to attract larger gatherings like weddings, reunions, cultural celebrations and quinceañeras.
Although renovation plans were already in place before the start of the pandemic, Nelson said the Sheraton Chapel Hill took advantage of the opportunity to close amid the worldwide decrease in travel.
“It worked out to be a blessing in disguise because it gave us the opportunity to really shut down,” Nelson said. “Let’s go ahead and do it while COVID is happening.”
Paolicelli said she believes the hotel is now suited for lasting success. But, for now, she said she recognizes that many businesses are still choosing not to travel during the pandemic.
"Long term, it will definitely be a huge boost to Chapel Hill’s economy," Paolicelli said. "Short term, we do have some bumpy months ahead, and we’ll try to reimagine how we can market that space.”
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