Marriott Marquis Preview
First look: Spectacular new downtown Houston hotel offers a Super experience
By any measure, the Marriott Marquis impresses. Set to open December 26 and become a prime gathering spot at Super Bowl LI in early February, the $370 million downtown hotel that sits on the northeast corner of Discovery Green has some Texas-sized statistics: It's 29 stories tall, employs a staff of 700, has 1,000 rooms, and a mammoth 40,000-square-foot ballroom — the largest in Houston, capable of holding up to 4,000 people.
During a walk-through preview of the new hotel Thursday, Jay Marsella, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, pointed out features of the detailed space. Guest enter through the lobby, where they'll find check-in and the concierge desk, but the hotel has numerous public areas. As expected, the design by Looney & Associates, telegraphs luxury with marble table tops, wood floors, and tray ceilings.
"Millennials don't stay in their guest rooms anyway," Marsella noted. He describes the property as an "experiential hotel" with six bars and restaurants that are designed to appeal to the next generation of hotel guests with a diverse set of options that will keep people onsite.
That starts with Texas T, which Marsella describes as a "Starbucks on steroid." In addition to Starbucks coffee, the cafe will offer grab-and-go sandwiches at breakfast and lunch, as well as bottles of beer and wine to consume on premises. Beyond Texas T lies the Texas Trading Company gift shop. A nearby "library" area offers places people can work alone or in groups at communal tables with plugs for keeping portable electronics fully charged.
Next to Texas T, patrons will find Cueva ("cave"), the hotel's wine bar. In addition to wines on tap, the bar's staff will use a Coravin system that will allow them to serve any bottle of wine by the glass for people who commit to two glasses. Non-wine drinkers will have limited beer and cocktail options. Tapas-style small plates will provide snacks.
Hugo Ortega's Xochi occupies the restaurant space near Texas T. Dedicated to the cuisine of Oaxaca, the restaurant will open after the hotel does, tentatively on January 9.
Biggio's, a two-story sports bar opened in partnership with the Astros Hall of Famer, sits on the corner of Walker and Avenida. The space has three sections: a lounge that features baseball leather-style couches, a long bar lined with baseball bats and TVs, and a large restaurant seating area. Within the restaurant, two giant projection screens — one media member estimated them at 20 feet long and 15 feet tall — can be viewed from Vegas sportsbook-style lounge seats. They have plugs, too, of course: perfect for getting a little work done (or checking fantasy football scores).
Biggio's contract with the restaurant stipulates that he'll make at least 30 appearances at the hotel per year. Approximately half will be for marketing events, but patrons will likely see him in the dining room from time to time. Beyond the signage bearing his name, the restaurant also displays signed memorabilia like batting helmets, balls, and jerseys.
Walker Street Kitchen, a "casual coastal" seafood restaurant, serves as the hotel's main restaurant, with a breakfast buffet, as well as lunch and dinner daily.
All of the restaurants will be open to the public during the week of Super Bowl LI. Since the restaurant is the official host hotel for the game's staff, it will house a number of celebrities, including NFL execs, former players, at least one team owner, and high-profile, out-of-town media. Expect celebrity sightings galore — at least for those who can find a place to sit.
The hotel's meeting and ballrooms occupy floors two through four. If the fourth floor's 40,000-square-foot ballroom is either too much space (or not enough), consider the second floor's 22,000 square-foot "junior ballroom." Both ballrooms can be divided in half and feature spacious foyers for cocktail hours or other pre-event festivities. Marsella says the hotel has already begun booking society galas for both spaces, which means the boldface names will soon be making regular appearances.
Guests have plenty of luxury of their own. The sixth floor features the MClub for preferred travelers, as well as the Pure Spa, fitness center, and the already famous Texas-shaped lazy river. Billed as the only rooftop lazy river in the world, the feature is only open to guests and spa patrons, at least for now. The water feature and an adjacent infinity pool offer a spectacular view of Discovery Green. Those who want to linger pool side will be able to rent one of a half-dozen cabanas.
Even the hotel's fitness center is one-third larger than Marriott requires for a 1,000 room hotel, which should mean no fighting with Roger Goodell for an elliptical. Taken together, the owners hope these features make the hotel appealing to leisure travelers as well as business people.
Given the posh surroundings, the guestrooms are almost anti-climactic. All rooms feature either one king-size or two queen-size beds; 50-inch, flat panel smart TVs offer Netflix built-in. Bowing to current convention, most of the rooms contain only stand-up showers; tubs are reserved for suites. Rooms will be priced in the mid $100s to low $200s in the summer and are roughly $100 more in season. Expect the two, 2,200-square-foot presidential suites to run about $8,000 per night; pricey, sure, but they do have private balconies and views of Discovery Green and the downtown skyline.