The National WWII Museum and its board of trustees, joined by Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser, officially began construction on the attached Higgins Hotel & Conference Center. The 230-room hotel, which is scheduled for completion in 2019, will operate as part of the exclusive Curio Collection by Hilton. As the first Curio Collection hotel in Louisiana, the property will support the museum’s expanding educational programs while offering guests full-service hotel accommodations and a way to maximize their time at the Museum.
The National WWII Museum was recently ranked the No. 2 museum in the world and No. 2 in the country by the 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice awards. The museum's board of trustees also established World War II Theatre, a wholly owned special purpose entity, and retained Hostmark Hospitality Group to manage a hotel and conference center that will support the museum’s mission and growth.
“We fundamentally believe that a dedicated space to host educational programs for students, teachers, enthusiasts, corporate groups, reunion groups, and military is a core component of what we should have here at the Museum,” Stephen J. Watson, president & CEO of the museum, said in a statement. “When we looked at our last undeveloped piece of land, we wanted to ensure that we created a property that would economically support the Museum’s educational mission, while also enhancing our visitor experience. When you pair that with our increasing visitation, a hotel and conference center is a natural choice.”
“In 2017, the museum is driving more than 300,000 room nights at hotels throughout New Orleans," Brandon Berger, World War II Theatre board chairman, said in a statement. “A hotel will give us the opportunity to offer our visitors convenient accommodations in the ever-expanding Warehouse District neighborhood. But the development will also be geared toward furthering the Museum’s educational and research resources for students and scholars alike. With this additional space, we can host more lectures, Meet the Author receptions, conferences and symposia right here on the Museum’s main campus.”
Named after Higgins Industries shipbuilder Andrew Higgins, the property will be inspired by the war era and include an art deco style designed by architects Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates from Coral Gables, Fla., and interior design firm Kay Lang + Associates from Los Angeles. In addition to 230 guestrooms, the property will have a second-floor conference center with more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space, including a boardroom and five meeting rooms bearing names related to the content and themes of World War II. Six levels of donor underwriting opportunities are available ranging from conference meeting rooms to individual guest suites and rooms.
“The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center will be a great addition to Louisiana and the Curio Collection by Hilton portfolio,” Bill Fortier, SVP, development, Americas at Hilton, said in a statement. “The property will provide guests a truly unique and historical experience. As a new build property, we are excited that we have officially broken ground and look forward to opening in 2019.”
The hotel will also offer a built-in loyalty program for the museum’s membership base of more than 156,000. The cost of building The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center is $66.5 million, including the appraised value of the land. Hotel profits will be distributed to The National WWII Museum to build its endowment and educational mission, providing a source of income to cover the ongoing capital maintenance of the museum’s campus and growth of its educational programs.