With events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War now in full swing — the Battle of Gettysburg takes center stage next summer — businesses in and around Gettysburg are freshening up their looks.
One of the biggest facelift projects is the Gettysburg Hotel.
In the heart of the historic downtown, the hotel kicked off a multimillion-dollar renovation project in November that is slated for a March completion.
The 119-room property will undergo updates to the guestrooms, meeting and banquet spaces, the lobby and the restaurant areas, said Chris Delaney, associate vice president for financial services for Gettysburg College, the owner of the hotel, which was established in 1797.
"There was a general feeling that the property was tired and it needed refreshed," Delaney said, citing no major renovations since the hotel reopened in 1991.
In 1983, the hotel was ravaged by fire. The college helped spearhead downtown revitalization efforts and acquired the property. It also led the charge in the renovation of the adjacent Majestic Theater, a college-owned venue for performing arts and cinema.
York Township-based Kinsley Construction Inc. is the general contractor on the hotel renovation, which has the overall goal of improving the guest experience, Delaney said. The historic character of the hotel will be preserved.
"At the same time, we're trying to strengthen the position of the Gettysburg market and reposition the hotel as an upscale boutique hotel," he said. "I definitely think the Gettysburg Square is sort of a gateway to the community of Gettysburg as well as the college. It's important for us and the community to make that commitment to the downtown."
Guest rooms will get new furnishings, fixtures and wall coverings, as well as new televisions. The lobby space will receive communal tables and added technology, including interactive maps of the Gettysburg area. The tavern also will be expanded to a full-service restaurant.
"It's going to be a much-celebrated event in the greater Gettysburg area," Delaney said. "I think there is an expectation that all hotels in the area leading up to the commemoration are going to be sold out."
The 150th anniversary of the battle begins July 1. Dedication Day, the sesquicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, is Nov. 19.
"We are expecting 4 million visitors next year (in Adams County). That is 20 percent above normal numbers," said Norris Flowers, president of the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Across the county, there are more than 100 lodging properties and more than 2,500 rooms, he said.
"We're almost full now during the 10-day period in June and July," he said, referring to events from late June into early July. "We anticipate the same scenario for Dedication Day."
The bureau is working with communities within a 60-mile radius to help secure lodging for potential Gettysburg visitors in 2013, Flowers said.
Every week, new events are coming online for next year to attract additional visitors. The goal, he said, is to have events throughout the entire year and carry the momentum through 2015 — the final year of Civil War 150.
"We're using 2013 as a jumping off spot to reposition our market for the next 10 years," he said. "The (Gettysburg) Hotel (project) is a substantial investment of a million-plus dollars. Other hotels have already undergone renovations."
New restaurants and other hospitality properties have come online in the area, including the Federal Pointe Inn, Flowers said. Other properties are on the drawing board, he said.
"We anticipate the full four years (of Civil War 150) will have a $2.5 billion economic impact to the county," he added, based on previous research and the visitor projection. "That will take us to early 2015."
The bureau will be hiring an outside firm by Jan. 1 to begin studying the local market and its assets to develop a 10-year strategic plan that will help sustain high visitor levels, Flowers said.
"We know in 2013 we'll see first-time visitors here," he said. "One goal will be repeat visitors."