BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — The construction of the new Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights is nearing completion and the contractors are finishing design details. Shane and Duane Connell and the Embassy Suites management invited Mayor Bob Woodruff for an exclusive “hard hat tour” of the work-in progress of the new 176 room eight-story facility and restaurant that will open in mid-March.
The tour began in the 3,000 square foot Starbucks. The dark brown paneled walls and oversized crown moldings create a warm rich feeling in the large space that will be flanked with couches and soft seating. It will be accessible from both the lobby of the Embassy Suites and the exterior parking lot. It will feature seating for 120 people, along with an attractive exterior patio space for use in the summer months. It also will be one of the few Starbucks that will offer nitro brew.
The tour proceeded to the lobby where displayed rendering drawings have come to life. You can envision the flow of the registration check-in area with the breakfast seating and happy hour bar and fireplace. Standing in the entrance, your eyes are immediately drawn to the grand staircase with cascading water wall that leads to the second story ballroom area and private meeting rooms equipped with amenities, such as built-in audio-visual systems and can adapt for multi-functional purposes with dining and auditorium style seating available.
To the left of the double story lobby entrance is a brick wall that is designed to look like “the wall has been here and [we] built the restaurant next to it,” said Shane Connell, executive vice president of The Connell Company and owner of hotel. Along for the tour to answer questions were Duane Connell, executive vice president of The Connell Company; Embassy Suites General Manager Ian Brodsky; Leila Campisi, director of marketing and sales and the project civil engineers.
As you enter the Grain & Cane restaurant from the hotel lobby, you enter through heavy steel warehouse style doors that are designed to resemble a 1920s commodity exchange warehouse, with a brick interior that transcends the space into more of a Soho feel than that of a New Jersey suburb.
The design features pay tribute to the Connell family. The Connell Company was once the largest nongovernmental rice trader in the world and a major broker of sugar and sugar products. Vintage photos and the train station style solari boards highlighting menu items are added touches special to Connell history.
Executive Chef Will Hawkins continues to work on the menu that will incorporate a New American flare along with upscale steakhouse and raw bar items. The 4,467 square foot restaurant seats 140 inside and another 30 outside (that can be accessed through garage doors that open the restaurant to the outside) and the bar will seat 15 in addition to high top tables and couches in the lounge area.
Shane Connell explained to Woodruff during the tour that the same design theme will carry to the mixed use project known as “12 Acres” that includes apartment and retail space [that has been approved for rezoning]. The hotel and restaurant will feel like it's part of “12 Acres,” Connell said.
The enormous 5,300 square foot ballroom is currently being used for furniture delivery staging. The hotel management anticipates the furniture placement phase to take approximately six weeks and training of employees an additional four weeks.
The inaugural wedding is scheduled for June and brides have raved about the modern decor and amenities all being under one roof. Click here for more information on event planning.
The suite style rooms feature a private guest room with living space that includes a pull out couch, large TV, wet bar, table and desk with special decor touches of Thomas Edison style lighting and wallpaper and their exquisite selection of bathroom tiles and flooring as well as the special design of the self closing pocket doors to the bathroom that mimic old warehouse doors. The hotel will also have a smaller single style suite that has the option to adjoin to a larger suite. Many rooms will have scenic views of the beautiful landscape of walking trails and the neighboring quarry.
The first phase of the outdoor trails includes a 1.5 mile jogging loop that will begin at Starbucks and loop around Lifetime Fitness. The next phase will incorporate the “12 Acres” project and will be a three mile loop, said Connell.
An in-house “head of grounds” has been selected and the park-like grounds will be a destination for the community. The second phase of the Grove Park could include an outdoor dog park, children’s play area, basketball courts and outdoor gym, said Connell. “It helps out the tenants and hotel guests, but it should help the community to embrace.”
For the hotel, their goal is to be the nicest hotel in the area that is value driven with better rates. They continue to fill their team and have plans for another job fair in the near future.
As Woodruff left the hotel, he only had positive words and looks forward to the March opening. “With a good product, good service — people will come and it will do well,” he said.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Berkeley Heights located at 250 Connell Drive in Berkeley Heights is currently taking reservations for 2018. Visit their website and call 908-673-3754 for further information.