Schneider Claims Bentley to Be Restored to Former Grandeur
Lamar: What first attracted you to the Hotel Bentley?
Brace and I trace our family roots to Bayou Chicot and Turkey Creek respectively, therefore, the status of the Bentley as the area’s most prominent historic landmark has been long known to both of us. In our prior dealings with Bob Dean involving Baton Rouge downtown properties, he had suggested that we take a look at the Bentley. We politely set aside that notion until Harry Silver and Martin Johnson made an impromptu visit to our offices in late July and passionately requested our assistance in returning the Bentley to economic commerce. Although we tried to emphasize to them that all of our focus, energies and resources needed to be on our Baton Rouge properties, we ultimately could not ignore their arguments of timing, civic pride, legacy and economics. Therefore, we elected to use our cache with Bob Dean for the mutual benefit of all parties by signing the purchase agreement.
Lamar: Where Would You Like to See the Bentley in Five Years? Ten?
We have developed a goal for the Bentley that encompasses both a five and ten-year perspective. Our goal is for the Bentley to be the anchor of a thriving, vibrant, revitalized downtown Alexandria that is a destination location for CENLA residents, Louisiana citizens and national and international visitors. The achievement of this goal will produce civic pride, legacy and economic benefits.
Lamar: What’s Going to Happen to the Bentley Room and the Mirror Room?
Our intent is to bring back both rooms to their original grandeur.
Lamar: Will You Be Reducing the Number of Hotel Rooms?
Preliminary planning calls for us to make renovations to the public areas and approximately half of the 178 rooms prior to the spring opening. Once the renovation is complete on these rooms, the renovation will commence on the other rooms. The entire renovation cycle is targeted for completion in time for a formal grand opening of the Bentley coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its initial opening on August 10, 2007.
Lamar: What Types of Cosmetic and Decorative Changes Will You Be Making?
We are currently meeting with our design consultants to establish the specific cosmetic and decorative changes that will be incorporated into the renovation plans. Our design goal is to return the Bentley to its original grandeur reminiscence of the vision achieved by Buddy Tudor in his 1984 renovation program.
Lamar: How Has the Community Responded to Your Plans?
The community support has been the principal reason why we elected to ignore those initial thoughts that we should continue to solely focus our time, resources and energies on our Baton Rouge projects. We held our initial press conference last August on the steps of the Bentley for the dual purpose of announcing the signing of a purchase agreement as well as to gauge community support. If community support was not evident, we had a 30-day window out of the purchase agreement. The crowd in front of the Bentley and on the steps and rooftop of City Hall convinced us that there was a need and desire to return the Bentley to economic commerce. We were sold on our mission and we have not looked back