New tower opens at Hilton Columbus, making High Street hotel Ohio’s largest with 1,000 rooms

Ohio has a new largest hotel after the Hilton Columbus unveiled its 463-room expansion, taking the room count to over 1,000 rooms. H&LA’s David Sangree weighed in for this article about the Hilton Columbus, indicating the hotel may struggle in its first year due to adding so many rooms in a market that is still recovering fully from the pandemic.

Published by: Glaser
Published: October 2022

Move over, Kalahari. Ohio has a new largest hotel and it’s open for business just north of downtown Columbus.

The newly expanded Hilton Columbus Hotel now has 1,000 rooms on either side of High Street, connected to the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the city’s Short North neighborhood.

The hotel’s new 463-room, 28-story tower opened last week on the east side of High Street, attached by skybridge to the original Hilton Columbus, built in 2012 with 537 rooms.

The Hilton Columbus is now the largest hotel in Ohio, topping Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, which has 884 rooms. The Hilton Cleveland Downtown is largest in Northeast Ohio, with 600 rooms.
The two Hilton properties share other similarities – the same primary architect, Atlanta-based Cooper Carry, and the same builder, Turner Construction.

They’re also both publicly owned and financed, although their funding mechanisms are different. The Cleveland Hilton, open in 2016, is owned by Cuyahoga County and was financed primarily from revenue generated from a quarter-cent sales tax increase. The Columbus Hilton is owned by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, which also owns the convention center and Nationwide Arena, and was financed primarily through bonds, to be paid off via hotel profits, bed-tax revenue and other sources.

Don Brown, executive director of the convention authority, said the $264.5-million addition was necessary to keep Columbus competitive in the race for future large-group gatherings.
“We knew we had to have this asset in order to compete for large conferences and trade shows,” he said. He cited Indianapolis, Nashville, Louisville and Charlotte as competitor cities with hotel capacity that had outpaced the space in Columbus.
Cleveland, with its more modestly sized convention center – less than a quarter of the size of the 1.8-million-square-foot space in Columbus — generally does not compete with Columbus for the largest groups and events.
The new Hilton tower, in the works since 2018, had its opening date pushed back several times due to construction delays and other issues. The cost increased, as well, in part because an additional floor was added.
* Several new food and beverage options, including FYR, on the ground floor, with a live-fire grill and Latin-influenced menu; and Stories on High, a rooftop bar and restaurant that is expected to open to the public in early 2023.
* Nearly $2.5 million in art, including 199 original pieces by Central Ohio artists. In addition, every guestroom includes a print of native son James Thurber’s “Thurber Dog with Flower.”
* 40 suites, including two Skyline suites designed to “feel like a private residential penthouse in the sky,” according to press material.

Room rates vary, but start at about $175 per night.

Brown said it will take a couple of years before the new Hilton ramps up to its occupancy goals of approximately 70%.

He noted that while the number of events hosted at the convention center has picked up substantially in 2022, attendance is still below 2019 levels.

Hotel consultant David Sangree said the new hotel tower’s timing is remarkably good — it secured financing before the pandemic hit and opened as the group travel business started gearing up again.

“In the first year, it will struggle a bit because it’s adding so many rooms,” said Sangree, president of Cleveland’s Hotel and Leisure Advisors. “The market is definitely improving, although it’s not where it was yet in 2019.”

In addition, the new Hilton tower isn’t the only new hotel in Columbus. Prior to the pandemic, the city was experiencing a mini-hotel building boom, adding numerous new properties in the Short North and Arena District neighborhoods, including the Graduate Columbus, Moxy Columbus Short North, Canopy by Hilton and AC by Marriott.

According to information from STR, a travel data firm, the city added 19 new hotels between 2018 and 2022, for a combined additional 2,994 rooms. Year-to-date occupancy for Columbus in 2022 is 58.1%, down from 67.8% in 2018, according to STR.