Even in a wobbly economy, Hilton Anatole general manager Marc Messina is after something lofty. Something of star caliber. High art, if you will.
“It’s 10,000 pounds, and it totally plays on the art theme here,” Messina says, nodding toward a diagram of “The Nebula,” a colossal objet d’art that was slated in September to hang 50 feet above guest’s heads, in the Anatole’s central atrium.
Crafted by San Francisco Bay Area artist Reuben Margolin, the kinetic mass of aircraft cable, pulleys, and amber crystal is the focal point of a $25 million renovation of the atrium, and the cornerstone—at least for now—of a broad-scale, multi-year Anatole overhaul costing five times that much.
You might call the theme of the $125 million redo, scheduled to wrap up in October, “adaptable luxury.” Meeting space and Asian-themed guest rooms got a facelift. Restaurants once central to the atrium were pushed to its periphery, and new ones were equipped with glass screens, sliding walls, and other means to expand and contract with the flow of business. Sparse crowds aren’t likely at the new Media Grill and Bar, though—a $5 million, 7,500-square-foot bistro offering lunch, dinner, and dancing.
With the hotel’s 1,606 rooms and more than 500,000 square feet of meeting space, corporate bookings are the Anatole’s bread and butter, says hotel manager Nick Briner.
“Dallas, by its nature, is a very strong business destination,” Messina says. “It’s a different feeling than if you go to Las Vegas, for example. Sure, there are wonderful hotels with wonderful meeting space, but [Vegas is] also dripping with distractions. ... Dallas doesn’t have that. And the Anatole [location], even in its slight separation from downtown, further makes it an island unto itself that’s a great venue for business.”
An industry veteran of more than 40 years, Messina hails from Boston and, on certain words—like “i-dee-ar” for “idea”—his New England accent is still evident. Since arriving in 1994 at the hotel—now the Southwest’s largest in terms of meeting space—Messina has presided over the Hotel Association of North Texas and served on the executive board of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Just now, he says, “I sense that we’re in a period with an abundance of [hotel] supply. …And we’ll all have a small piece of the pie unless we work together to make sure there’s a bigger pie out there.”
Messina’s style—more collegial than top-down—isn’t typical in the hospitality industry, says Briner. He’s one of a seven-person managerial team Messina brought to the hotel with him in ’94; since then, just one of the seven has left.
“The leadership hat transfers to the one with the expertise,” Messina explains. “If the issue is better solved by someone else, that person becomes the ‘leader’—whoever it is. … Am I not the fool if someone can do it better than me?”