ASHLAND — A "dramatic transformation" is how James Russell described the new Delta Hotel by Marriott that officially opened Wednesday on Winchester Avenue in Ashland.

"It doesn't look anything like the old Ashland Plaza Hotel," said Russell, who lives in Ashland.

Tyson Compton, president of the Huntington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is also an Ashland resident and was given a tour of the new 10-story, four-star luxury hotel.

"It is absolutely incredible," Compton said. "It is virtually unrecognizable from its previous incarnation. It is so well done that it looks more like a new building than a remodel."

New York City area developers Jim Nizzo and Andy Spiros purchased the Ashland Plaza Hotel for $3.6 million in 2016. They invested more than $17 million in the renovation project.

"There is not an inch of this property that has not been renovated," said Cara Hedrick, director of sales of the new hotel, which is being managed by LBA Hospitality. "Every bit, from top to bottom, is new. Everything from plumbing systems to heating are all new."

Hedrick says there was a complete redesign of the entrance on Winchester Avenue, a new lobby and all new furniture in every room of the hotel.

The hotel is located just off the Ohio River, within walking distance to the Paramount Arts Center.

"This hotel features 152 stylish guest rooms and suites," Hedrick said. "The ninth and 10th floors offer balcony rooms and hospitality suites offering scenic bridge and river views."

The hotel has two bars, the Bourbon Bar and the Guitar Bar, and a full-service restaurant, The Winchester, on the second floor that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hedrick says the new hotel is also the perfect place for a wedding, bridal shower and rehearsal dinners.

"From intimate gatherings to larger ceremonies, we bring to life the elements that matter most through delicious cuisine, scenic settings and exceptional service," she said. "We can take care of every detail so that your wedding becomes a simply perfect celebration."

She said the hotel is also great for reunions and other large groups.

The hotel also offers over 4,500 square feet of event space, Hedrick said.

"This includes a ballroom and two small meeting rooms on the first floor," she said.

Other amenities include free Wi-Fi, grab-and-go breakfast, and a fitness center with cardio equipment, free weights and plenty of space for yoga and CrossFit, Hedrick said.

The hotel employs around 120 people, according to Hedrick.

Rizzo and Spiros aren't new to the Ashland community. More than a dozen years ago, they bought the Ashland Oil headquarters building in Russell, Kentucky, and renovated it into the Bellefonte Centre.

They also bought the Hobby Lobby/Tractor Supply shopping center on U.S. 23 in Russell, Kentucky, in November 2016.

A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district was created by city and county officials for the project, which allows the city and county to capture future increases in tax revenue generated inside the TIF district. There is also a state TIF program in place to capture state tax revenue for future public infrastructure projects.

Also, the city provided a $4.5 million incentive package to the hotel developers through the issuance of bonds, which was used for both the purchase of the building and some of the construction costs, according to a city official. The bonds are to be repaid over 20 years with interest, the official added.

"We are ready to contribute to Ashland and economic development," Hedrick said.

Compton said the new hotel will be a huge asset for the Ashland area and was very much needed.

"As for tourism, it will definitely benefit the Ashland market and that just helps us all in the Tri-State region, especially when you have something like our recent soccer tournament when we needed thousands of rooms," Compton said.

Room rates start at $129, Hedrick added.

"Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at noon," she said.

For more information, contact Hedrick at 606-327-1100 or visit online at Marriott.com/HTSDA.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter

at @FredPaceHD.

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