WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 17, 2014, 04:12 AM

A suite opening: Cambria hotel, conference center opens in West Fargo

West Fargo -- When the Cambria Suites and Convention Center opens today, it is slated to be not just a destination for metro visitors but a meeting place for neighbors and West Fargoans, as well.

By: Wendy Reuer, Forum News Service, INFORUM, Forum News Service

West Fargo -- When the Cambria Suites and Convention Center opens today, it is slated to be not just a destination for metro visitors but a meeting place for neighbors and West Fargoans, as well.

The 103-suite hotel and convention center, where the main ballroom can hold 450, is at 825 Beacon Drive, tucked inside the southwest corner of Interstate 94 and Ninth Street South.

Cambria’s opening marks the first hotel to open in West Fargo since 1992 when a then-Days Inn opened on Main Avenue. The property is now a Howard Johnson.

The convention center will be the first of its kind to open in the city. Matt Marshall, West Fargo economic development and community services manager, said the Speedway Steakhouse and Events Center has been the go-to space for meetings and small gatherings, and will continue to host events, but Cambria will fill a niche the city has been hoping to attract.

“We’ve very excited to have it open and available to the public,” Marshall said. “It will offer a variety of opportunities that we haven’t had before.”

Mary Jo Alexander, corporate director of sales and marketing for KAJ Hospitality, said 25 events are already scheduled for the convention center, where they hope to host at least one wedding every weekend.

“There’s a need. Everyone we’re talking to says there is a need for this in West Fargo,” she said.

A luxe lounge with an outdoor patio alongside six ballrooms will be where regular community events are planned with a designer chef-managed bistro and bar that will be open to the public each day.

Throughout the property, walls are lined with photos taken by North Dakota Instagrammers and Fargo-West Fargo-themed décor.

Since construction began last year, staff of Choice Hotels International and KAJ Hospitality, the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based owners of Cambria, have paid painstakingly close attention to every detail for each corner of the convention center and space inside each suite to make the metro area’s first Cambria hotel reflect the culture and hospitality of its Fargo-Moorhead area home, said Michael Lusick, director of brand operations for Choice.

Lusick said the metro area is becoming a well-known destination for travelers and Cambria wanted to hone in on that modern feel.

Fargo and West Fargo “are becoming quite the hip or cool destination,” Lusick said. “It’s a growing business area, and it’s a really good market for Cambria.”

The area next to Cheney Middle School has become a hotbed of projects in the past year. The Blarney Stone Grill and Pub just east of Cambria is expected to open yet this month, and another hotel, the high-end and environmentally friendly Element by Westin, is currently under construction.

The two hotels are the first to be built in West Fargo south of Main Avenue, where the three other hotels that call the city home are located.

Aaron Johnson and his father own KAJ Hospitality and also operate a Hampton Inn in Fargo. Cambria is a part of Choice Hotels International, which includes Fargo hotels such as the Sleep Inn and Suites.

“We came across this opportunity and had some early discussions with the city of West Fargo and were unbelievably impressed with their willingness to facilitate this hotel being built and their desire to have a new hotel in West Fargo,” Johnson said. “Without a doubt, this location was chosen because of the city. They’re just craving new retail or commercial projects like this.”

If the Cambria proves successful, Johnson said KAJ could break ground on a second hotel on the west side of the adjoining convention center as early as 2015.