(photo source: Facebook)
See WECT video clip here.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) Report 12.28.2018
The Hilton Wilmington Riverside has a long history sitting on the bank of the Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington.
It opened as The Timme Plaza in 1970. It became a Hilton Hotel in 1972.
Wilmington needed an economic boost. The Atlantic Coast Rail line had moved out and much of the commerce had moved to the suburbs.
"They came into downtown at a point that we were really reeling from economic times. Getting a major investment to come in and be part of downtown and have the hotel industry represented in that way was really important to us," said Ed Wolverton with Wilmington Downtown Inc.
The hotel is changing again. An $8.5 million renovation and re-branding is underway. The Hilton Wilmington Riverside will become a tapestry-style, upscale hotel and the name will change to The Ballast Hotel.
"A more unique boutique brand of Hilton. It allows us to tell a story about the building and a little of the history of the building and help us build off the maritime history," said Karen Morganti with Hilton Wilmington Riverside.
All of the rooms are being renovated to a more modern look showcasing both the nautical history of Wilmington as well as natural elements from the Cape Fear River.
The lobby will be completely redone with a new coffee shop called the Buffalo Bayou. The business center will become a library. The pool area will be expanded to include fire pits and cabanas. There will also be a new restaurant called the Board and Barrel.
One of the biggest additions will be a special room for brides.
"We've added a new bridal suite, which is a king room and it's also going to be an area that has three different mirror bays where brides can get ready and have their hair and makeup people come and utilize that suite for the actual day of the wedding," said Morganti.
The ballroom also will undergo a major renovation with new lighting, wall coverings and new names representing the names of the Liberty ships that were built in Wilmington during World War II.
The past and present will combine for the future of not just the Hilton but the downtown economy.
"It's been the dominant player in our entire hospitality industry when we think about in terms of number of rooms and the facilities they have," Wolverton said. "I believe they are the largest hotel in New Hanover County by number of rooms, so that's been an important asset for downtown for many years."