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Courtyard Wilmington Downtown heads to auction

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The Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington Downtown, a 126-room hotel that caters to business travelers, has hit the market for the first time in decades. | PHOTO COURTESY OF COSTAR/SVN MILLER

WILMINGTON – The Courtyard by Marriott Wilmington Downtown is headed for the auction block next month as its longtime owners seek an institutional investor to acquire the property.

The hotel had been listed for sale for as much as $18 million last fall but is now preparing for an online auction set to run Feb. 28 to March 2 with a $4.7 million starting bid.

The 126-room, 10-story Courtyard Wilmington located at 1102 N. West St. has been owned by the Ciccone family for 35 years, according to county land records.

Gregg Marzano, an advisor for SVN Imperial Realty, the real estate brokerage listing the property, said it’s the only hotel that the family owns. They converted it to a Courtyard by Marriott in the ‘90s – it had been an office building at one time. Now nearing retirement, the family is looking to move the property, he said.

The family is now listing the hotel at auction in order to put the opportunity in front of more potential buyers, Marzano said. Marriott will continue to hold a management agreement at the hotel, which is a potential benefit for passive investors but a pitfall for many owner-operators in the hotel industry. Marzano estimated that 80% or more of hotel deals are made by such owner-operators.

“We’re just kind of casting a net for some larger institutional buyers that are comfortable with a Marriott management agreement,” he said, noting that they’ve already received about 20 interested parties seeking more info since the auction was announced.

The city’s downtown central business district has seen a few of its hotels change hands in recent years, including local major developer Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) acquiring the historic Hotel du Pont in 2017 and Virginia-based Excel Group purchasing the Residence Inn Wilmington Downtown a year later.

Meanwhile, the Riverfront has seen the majority of the hotel growth in the city with three hotels sprouting up in the past decade.

Marzano noted that the Marriott Downtown had three very successful years from 2017 to 2019 before COVID struck. Bookings at the hotel have been on the rise, Marzano said last fall before omicron emerged.

“Weekends have come back gangbusters, actually outperforming any numbers they’ve done historically in downtown Wilmington,” he said, noting that occupancy rates have run north of 80% on weekends over the last four months. “If midweek comes back to 70% or 80% occupancy, that hotel is going to be in a really good spot at the end of COVID.”

The hotel is still awaiting a larger influx of corporate business stays, but law firm visitors are booking, and the Courtyard is seeing a bit of a “Biden bump” from staffers, security and more who accompany the president on his many visits home, Manzano said.

The auction of the Marriott Downtown rekindles memories of the Sheraton Wilmington South hotel auction in 2020, which saw New Castle County win a pitched bidding war to buy the New Castle hotel and turn it into a homeless shelter and resource center now known as The Hope Center.

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