Hotel Indigo Reveals New Staff, Amenities as Opening Nears

HotelIndigoHospitality and water seem to go hand in hand for Bridget Hawks, the general manager of the brand spanking new (and coming soon) Hotel Indigo in downtown Traverse City.

Hawks has managed hotels on Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay, the Milwaukee waterfront and now West Grand Traverse Bay. It’s water she knows particularly well. Hawks was born and raised here, graduating from Elk Rapids Public Schools in 2000.

The hotel construction project itself marked four years in January – a fact construction workers acknowledge with a wry smile. The hotel development across from Traverse City’s Open Space was originally slated for completion in spring 2014. First there was the economic downturn and financing woes, then there was the cyanide – not on the hotel site, but migrating from next door. Developer Jeff Schmitz knew about the cyanide in the soil and groundwater, but concentrations turned out to be much higher than originally thought. More cleanup than planned meant further delays.

But all the setbacks and obstacles are quickly fading as the latest addition to the downtown lodging scene creeps ever closer to its April opening. Large windows showcase the waterfront just across Grandview Parkway. The H&L Social – the name an homage to the lumber company Hannah and Lay – is the rooftop bar many have longed for, with unparalleled downtown and water views (even in the heart of winter).

The upscale, four-story hotel will also feature a full-service bar and restaurant called Warehouse KiTChen + Cork on the ground floor along with a 5,500 square-foot ballroom space, and a heated, underground parking garage for registered guests. One hundred standard guestrooms and seven suites fill the top three floors.

In addition to the nod to the Hannah, Lay and Company, wood themes are reflected in the hotel’s aesthetic. Part of any Hotel Indigo development – the hotel is a chain of boutique hotels owned by InterContinental Hotels Group – is a promise to incorporate the local city’s tastes, styles and history.

Joining Hawks on the Hotel Indigo management team is a very familiar face in the local hospitality industry, Margaret Morse director of sales and marketing and Steve Fairbanks, food and beverage director.

Morse, director of sales and marketing, joined Hotel Indigo in October, following nearly nine years heading up sales and marketing for the historic Park Place Hotel. She first moved to Traverse City in 1980 and spent the first decade in sales for Sugar Loaf Resort in Leelanau County. Then she moved to the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa for the next eleven years.

In 2014, Morse was inducted into the 2014 Michigan Meetings + Events Hall of Fame, capping more than three decades in the hospitality industry.

“I never imagined being anywhere but the Park Place,” said Morse. “But this is a wonderful project. I’ve never opened a hotel before. Starting from the ground up is exciting.”

The first time she met Hawks was when she called Morse and asked if she’d be interested in learning a bit more about the hotel. Maybe it’s just the nature of hospitality, but the two get along as if they’ve known each other for years and seem to be just the right mix to get the hotel off and running.

Event bookings are certainly off and running. Morse has some scheduled from the end of April and into 2017 and is now filling some spots on the 2018 calendar.

Being a part of the local tourism industry when Traverse City was a bit lesser known, Morse has watched the region become a world-class destination and the hospitality industry rise along with it.

“I remember when the CVB (now TC Tourism) started,” she said, and watched with awe as awareness of the area has grown. “That’s a big change … how many people know about this area and our world-class offerings.”

She is also excited about working in collaboration with others in the lodging industry, rather than competing with them.
“We as hoteliers can only have a big impact together,” she said.

Steve Fairbanks joined Hotel Indigo last month as food and beverage director. Fairbanks comes from Front Street’s Red Ginger, where he was one of the front of the house managers on and off for the past four years.

“This is my fifth time around opening a restaurant,” Fairbanks said, though his first in a hotel.

His background includes Sunda, an Asian restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and North End Grill, renowned chef Danny Meyer’s contemporary American hot spot in New York’s Battery Park City.

“I’ve enjoyed working in the restaurant industry where tourism is strong,” said Fairbanks, and being able to give people the “inside scoop on what to do and what to see.”

While Hawks brings a special aptitude for waterfront hotel management to TC’s Hotel Indigo, she cut her hospitality teeth at a Hilton in Lexington, Ky., working in reservations. She later worked in housekeeping, front office and other positions that gave her experience in all aspects of a hotel operation. Her first general management position was for a hotel in Pawleys Island, South Carolina in 2008.

She and her husband, who hails from Washington, D.C., along with their two young children made the move after Hawks accepted the job last spring.

She said with a family now – and her parents still living here – it was time to come home after 13 years away.
Like Morse, this is Hawks’ first foray in opening a hotel, but amongst the stress of these final weeks the duo is tickled to be bringing another lodging option to downtown – and particularly excited about their new Warehouse District neighborhood.