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January 10, 2012 | last updated January 12, 2012 10:57 am

South Portland Wyndham to become DoubleTree by Hilton

Rendering/Courtesy Northeast Media Associates
Rendering/Courtesy Northeast Media Associates
A rendering of the Wyndham Hotel following a $3.7 million renovation. The hotel later this month will become a DoubleTree by Hilton.

The owner of an iconic hotel near the Portland Jetport is changing its franchise affiliation and investing nearly $4 million into its facilities. Later this month, the Wyndham Hotel signs atop the former Sheraton Hotel on Maine Mall Road in South Portland will be removed to make way for a DoubleTree by Hilton sign.

Owner Joe VanWhy, of Florida-based InnDeavor Development Corp., says the change is not being driven by a lack of business under the Wyndham brand, but as a way to better serve travelers, who will be able to participate in the Hilton HHonors program.

"Doubletree by Hilton also has a much larger footprint worldwide, giving better recognition to the name identity," VanWhy says, adding the Hilton HHonors program is more popular than its counterpart, Wyndham Rewards. The Hilton HHonors program allows participants to earn corporate credit for staying at 3,750 hotels worldwide and earning airline miles from more than 50 airline partners. Meeting and social planners using any of the hotel's 13,000-square feet of function space may participate in the Hilton Honors program.

The new affiliation will result in an increase in room prices, but VanWhy does not know exactly by how much.

In 2007, VanWhy purchased the hotel, whose two iconic cylindrical towers are visible from I-95, and renovated the rooms and lobby area. In recent years, he leased land to two popular restaurant chains: Cracker Barrel and Chipotle Grill. Those additions also came with a $1.2 million stormwater upgrade as part of the city's ongoing effort to clean up the Long Creek watershed.

There are still development sites available by the hotel. While VanWhy says he knows of no imminent tenants, he says he would like to balance current uses by adding retail to the site.

The hotel is in the midst of a $3.7 million renovation. With new red exterior siding largely complete, renovation efforts will turn toward upgrades to the hotel's restaurant, fitness room and pool. VanWhy says the WIFI service is being upgraded throughout the hotel, affording guests a complimentary, print-from-your-room services. The upgrade will better allow guests to watch movies, shop and work from their rooms. Additional upgrades include new 37-inch, high-definition televisions, "Sweet Dreams" beds and HVAC systems.

The hotel is remodeling its Blue Wave Grill, where Chef Mike Duncanson, formerly of Boston and Westin hotels, will serve locally sourced food. A new executive lounge for Hilton HHonors guests will also be added.

VanWhy, who owned and rehabilitated the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland in the 1990s, recently sold the Hampton Inn Hotel in Saco, which he built and owned for more than 11 years. He would not disclose the details of the December 2011 sale because of a confidentiality agreement.

The change to the DoubleTree by Hilton will also herald another traveler's favorite — the warm chocolate chip cookie at check-in.

"I'm addicted to chocolate," VanWhy jokes. "It's the most expensive cookie I've ever bought in my life."

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