April 3, 2005

The forerunner to the Holiday Inn East opened in November 1972 with a splash that included Gov. Milton J. Shapp and Harrisburg Mayor Harold Swenson.

Then called the Host Inn, the Swatara Twp. hotel featured 301 rooms, a theater nightclub, an ice-skating area and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

The hotel's new owner is spending $6 million to restore the property's glory. The renovations may not yield an ice-skating rink, but there will be plenty of meeting space, refurbished rooms with free Internet access, a new facade and improvements to the recreational facilities, including the swimming pools.

"It's going to be a contemporary-looking product," said General Manager Richard Gold. "It will be an upscale product in the market."

"They don't build properties like this anymore," he said. "We call it a grand old lady that we're cleaning up now."

The hotel sits on 12 acres at 4751 Lindle Road, just off Interstate 283 and Eisenhower Boulevard. It is across the road from the Wyndham Harrisburg-Hershey and close to the Wyndham Garden Hotel. A 170-room Courtyard by Marriott under construction nearby is expected to open before fall.

It also is across the road from the site of the proposed High Pointe Commons, a 346,000-square-foot shopping center designed with three anchor stores and several smaller shops. That's scheduled for a fall 2006 opening.

"There's a lot of development in this part of the county," Gold said.

Gold, former manager of the Holiday Inn Grantville, moved to the Holiday Inn East when it was purchased last fall by Milestone Capital Corp. of Boca Raton, Fla. Milestone owns the Grantville property and the Best Western Inn in Hershey. It owns 14 hotels, and all three of its Pennsylvania holdings are in the Harrisburg area.

About a third of the renovation work at Holiday Inn East has been completed. The hotel has isolated about 170 rooms for renovations. By May 1, those rooms are to be ready for guests, and 100 other rooms will be isolated for improvements that are to be completed in July.

"We saw it as a great opportunity," said Mason W. Mednick, executive vice president with Milestone. "It's going to be beautiful when it's done, and the community will enjoy the product."

The hotel has been lucky because "we're able to segment the construction," Gold said. The entire project should be finished by November.

The renovations include improvements to the meeting space. The hotel will have about 25,000 square feet of space for meetings -- "some of the largest meeting space in the marketplace," Gold said.

The meeting facilities will have a high-tech theater for corporate training. The various meeting rooms will be able to accommodate 1,500 people. "Our company really excels in meetings and association business," Mednick said. Gold said facade work is scheduled to start soon, and the recreational facilities will be upgraded. Besides the swimming pools, the hotel has tennis courts and a basketball court that will be converted into an all-sports court. The hotel also is planning to "rename and re-theme" its restaurant as part of the changes. It restarted a Sunday brunch on Easter. Gold said the 225,000-square-foot hotel hasn't had a major facelift in a decade. Swatara Twp. Manager Paul Cornell said township building inspectors report that the renovations "look pretty good." "The hotel needed improvement," he said. "The competition is getting stiffer and they had to keep pace."


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