Real estate investor and operator Waterton Associates LLC focuses on multiple commercial industries. For years, Waterton Residential oversaw the company’s apartment holdings while Ultima Hospitality did the same for its hotels. But as of last month, those two subsidiaries were combined to operate as a single entity: Waterton.
The integration started about a year ago, explains CEO and Co-Chairman David Schwartz, who co-founded the company with Peter Vilim in 1995, when Waterton Associates merged its apartment and hotel human resources departments followed by its construction groups. “It was logical to combine them,” Schwartz says. “We saw there were a lot of synergies.”
The same became evident for its operating teams too. “Over the years, we realized that whether we were managing an apartment community or a hotel, our goal was the same: to deliver an exceptional level of service to our customers, regardless of whether we counted their stay in nights or years,” Schwartz states in a release.
Mark Zettl, a 25-year hospitality veteran who was instrumental in developing the Holiday Inn Express brand and previously served as chief operating officer at Ultima, has taken on the role of Waterton’s chief operating officer. He is now responsible for property management across Waterton’s apartment and hotel portfolios, overseeing design, construction and operations, as well as sales and marketing efforts.
“Over the years, with the advent of online rating and review sites, multifamily operations have become much more focused on the customer, presenting apartment managers with an opportunity to develop the same level of brand awareness and loyalty that, historically, has been associated with hotels,” Zettl said last month when the integration was announced.
“One name, one brand, under one umbrella: It’s more efficient,” Schwartz says. Waterton is expanding its service culture, which, to Schwartz, is where the industry is heading. “When you look at new apartments being built, they’re being built like really nice hotels with great fitness centers and common area spaces,” he says. “In some cases, I think new apartments today rival great hotels as far as some of these amenities like outdoor spaces, rooftops, and communal areas.
“The resident today demands a very high level of service,” he adds.
Waterton now has a $4 billion portfolio that includes approximately 20,000 rental units and 13 select- and full-service hotels across the U.S., including Sheraton, DoubleTree, Hyatt Place, Westin, and Aloft. As part of the brand realignment, Waterton also plans to leverage Ultima’s existing procurement platform to generate savings across its portfolio of more than 50 rental communities, using the same supply chain for furniture, fixtures, and operating equipment that can be purchased in bulk through Ultima’s established relationships with hotel suppliers.
All that, Schwartz says, generates efficiency. Waterton has even coined a term for its integration: “Resitality.” “It’s a strong theme throughout the company,” he adds, “but it’s really providing hospitality-like experiences to our residents and home-like experiences to our hotel guests. It’s about a service culture.”
Since so few companies are involved in both hotels and apartments, Schwartz says Waterton had to blaze its own trail on the integration. The company’s 2,000 employees are mostly at the site level so there hasn’t been significant movement since the move.
“So far,” Schwartz says, “it’s
been working great.”