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Ambassador Celebrates Decade Since Reopening

Paul Coury at the Ambassador Hotel

Tulsa Business Journal, May 25, 2009

The Hotel Ambassador marks its 10-year anniversary this month – eight decades after it originally opened.

Designed by architect N.E. Peters of Kansas City and assisted by Smith & Senter of Tulsa, the Ambassador Apartment Hotel, 1324 S. Main St., opened in 1929 under the ownership of Gen. Patrick J. Hurley, a former U.S. Ambassador.

From 1949 to 1987, the hotel experienced several ownership changes and underwent sporadic renovations. Significant changes included the addition of a 10th floor, a street-level cafeteria and a basement, which today houses the Chalkboard Restaurant.

The Hotel Ambassador closed due to struggling finances in 1987.

Paul Coury, president of the Coury Collection, a Tulsa-based hospitality development and management unit, purchased the Hotel Ambassador in 1997.

“I’ve always thought it was a very charming building,” Coury said. “Ten years ago, this area was pretty blighted, but while it wasn’t necessarily a desirable neighborhood, it was a well-located neighborhood.”

Coury said the area came up fast after the Coury Collection purchased the Ambassador.

“Everything happened really fast, and all of a sudden you had this sort of regentrified pocket.”

The Coury Collection reopened the hotel in May 1999, after a $5.5 million restoration.

The Hotel Ambassador is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Hotels of America.

The Ambassador is not alone, either. The Coury Collection is full of historic properties, including the Inn at Price Tower, 19 rooms in Frank Lloyd Write’s only skyscraper, and the Colcord in Oklahoma City. Coury said the collection may be expanding soon, too, as he is currently about to start renovations on a property in an historic area of Kansas City.

The hotel recently underwent another cosmetic renovation to the tune of $700,000, or roughly $12,700 per room.

“All of the rooms, the carpet in the hallways and the meeting rooms were completely redone,” Coury said.

It may seem like a lot to spend during a recession, but Coury said while the Ambassador’s revenue has been affected, it hasn’t been by much.

“The first quarter was off, but not as much as other hotel markets, which were off by 10 to 12 percent. We were off more like 3 or 4 percent,” Coury said. “The hope, just as it was in the travel slump after Sept. 11, is that it doesn’t last so long you have to lower your rates, because it’s hard to recover from that. I don’t think we’ll get there, our revenue this month is already back on track.”

Coury said part of the stability of his income is due to the stability of his target market.

“About 60 to 70 percent of our clients are high-end business travelers,” he said. “We have seen some cutbacks on our large corporate accounts, but the majority of our business clients are individual business people, so they haven’t had to cut back as much.”

The Ambassador, currently the only “boutique” hotel close to downtown, faces threats other than the economy. Two new boutique hotels, the Mayo Hotel and Lofts the 120-room Courtyard by Marriot, set to occupy the Atlas Life Building, are both scheduled to open soon.

“We may see some impact at the end of the day,” Coury said. “The Mayo is a fairly notorious building, so I’m sure there will be a lot of curiosity. But we also offer the largest rooms in Tulsa and high-end customer service, so I think we’ll be fine.”

For information and reservations at the Hotel Ambassador, visit www.hotelambassador-tulsa.com.