August 1, 2018

New South Portland hotel is all about sustainability, owner says

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The Home2 Suites at 50 Maine Mall Road, owned by New Gen Hospitality Management, is the first of the Hilton extended stay brand to open in New England.

SOUTH PORTLAND — The lobby of the Home2 Suites hotel in South Portland feels different from a lot of hotels — bigger and more colorful.

But it's what you can't see at the Hilton extended stay brand hotel that's the big difference. Owned by New Gen Ventures, a five-hotel South Portland company, Home2 Suites reflects the owner's commitment to the environment.

The 74,900-square-foot, 111-suite hotel has a cogeneration heat system, in which the gas-powered heat regenerates, providing much of the energy for the building — some 700,000 kilowatt hours a year.

New Gen's's other four South Portland hotels have solar panels, but New Gen owner Suresh Gali said he'll wait to see how the cogen plant works before adding them to Home2 Suites.

The building also has an underground water filtration system that treats the runoff from the parking lot, and heated outdoor sidewalks mean less salt use.

"We're in the Long Creek [watershed] area, so that was important," Gali said Monday as the hotel staff regrouped after a ribbon-cutting and open house.

The hotel opened July 20 at 50 Maine Mall Road, the first Hilton Home2 Suites in New England. The chain stresses sustainability, from the materials used to build it, to what's inside once the hotel is built. That includes recycling containers prominently displayed in rooms and hallways, and soap and shampoo dispensers in the suite bathrooms rather than the standard hotel mini-bottles. As part of the sustainability effort, rooms are stocked with place servings for six to reduce the amount of waste from disposable plates and flatware.

The saline pool doesn't use chemicals, carpeting is made from recycled materials and more.

Gali said that model fit with what he's trying to do. "My passion is renewable energy," Gali said.

General manager Abraham Rivas said that the concept is important.

"We want to minimize our carbon footprint," he said.

Accommodating needs, current and future

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
There are two outdoor patio areas at the Home2 Suites, 50 Maine Mall Road, South Portland. This one has a fire pit.

The Home2 Suites brand was launched in 2009 and there are now 265 in the U.S. and Canada.

Certain things are found in all of the hotels, said Jeannie Cohen, director of sales at the South Portland location.

For instance, the guest laundry room is in an alcove off the fitness room, so those staying there can work out and do their laundry at the same time.

But other things are unique to the South Portland location. Besides the cogen and water treatment plants, the windows are as soundproof as possible to help minimize the impact of the hotel's close neighbor, the Portland International Jetport.

"One of the most common complaints in hotels is noise," Gali said. "We can't eliminate it 100%, but we can reduce it." He said that extends to the floors and walls, so noise between rooms is also minimized.

Later, as Cohen is showing one of the hotel's two patio spaces, a jet takes off from the airport. Stepping inside, the roar fades.

"It really makes a difference," she said. "For as bad as that noise could be, it's really remarkable."

Gali also said that one issue with hotels is that as trends emerge — in the past, the need for breakfast space, for instance — something has to be taken away to make room. The 50 Maine Mall Road hotel is his first new build, and he made sure the lobby was large enough to be flexible.

"We want the public space designed to in a way to accommodate future needs," he said.

Accessibility, efficiency

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
One of the suites at the Home2 Suites. There are 16 rooms accessible for those with hearing, vision or mobility issues.

The lobby space of the hotel pops with bright greens, aquas and tangerine colors. A large couch surrounded by small tables, "the Oasis," is a signature of Home2 Suites, Cohen said.

The hotel has 16 rooms accessible for those mobility, visual or audio needs, and they include things like doorbells with both sound and strobes, lower counters and peepholes for those in wheelchairs, and wider doorways.

The hotel is extended-stay, which means kitchens in all the rooms, which include both studio suites and standard suites. The first two floors are pet friendly.

The wifi is hard-wired, so it's more secure, Cohen said.

She said the rooms, as well as the hotel in general, is designed for efficiency for guests, no matter who they are.

Cohen said that "extended stay" may mean someone is at the hotel for months, or even years, but it's also for the traditional hotel user. The longer someone stays, the lower the rate.

"We wanted it to be a hotel for everyone," she said.

Cohen has been in the hospitality business for a long time, and she said that it's constantly changing. For instance, white roofs, which reflect the sun, have become standard.

But she said she's excited to be part of the Home2 Suites concept.

"The sustainability aspect is so unique," she said. "And it's very welcoming, it's exciting."

Part of a bigger community

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The Home2 Suites in South Portland may include a restaurant at the space to the right in the future.

The hotel has 25 to 30 employees, Rivas, the general manager, said. Hiring in the tight labor market is "always challenging," he said.

Cohen said the staff, many of whom have worked in Gali's properties before, is excellent.

"A hotel is really just the building," she said. "It's the staff that make it special."

The hotel has been busy since it opened less than two weeks ago, including four fully occupied nights.

New Gen also owns the Comfort Inn Airport, at 90 Maine Mall Road; Days Inn Maine Mall, at 461 Maine Mall Road; Howard Johnson, at 675 Main St., and Quality Inn and Suites, 738 Main St.

AlliedCook Construction was the general contractor, and other businesses involved in building the hotel were NS Giles Foundations, of Bangor; Shaw Brothers construction, of Gorham; Veterans Construction, of East Waterboro; Granite Corp. mechanical contractors, of Oakland; Regional Electric, of Auburn; Ace Painting, of South Portland; Paul White Tile, of Portland; Custom Surface Applicators, of Farmingdale; Al Lappin Landscaping, of Scarborough; and Oakes & Parkhurst Glass, of Augusta.

While the hotel itself is complete, Cohen said there is more to come.

A space on the Darling Avenue side of the hotel, currently used as one of the hotel's two dog-walking spots, is slated to eventually to be built out and leased to a restaurant.

For the time being, the hotel will partner with local restaurants, eight of which supplied food for Monday's open house.

Cohen said that while the hotel is a national chain, and many of the guests are from other places, it's ultimately part of the South Portland fabric.

"We're committed to the community," she said. "We're already part of it."


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