Phil Miller had already spent two decades in the hospitality design and construction industry by the time that Atrium Hospitality offered him the role of senior vice president of capital investment strategies in 2018. Given his familiarity with the hospitality space, Miller immediately recognized a feature that distinguished industry newcomer Atrium from other companies: its status as a private owner and operator.
“Because of the dynamics of what I do, working as both the owner and the operator appealed to me,” explains Miller, whose previous experience consisted of owner and third-party operator setups. “I was interested in the role that I would play from a strategic standpoint in terms of allocating and managing the company’s capital outlay.”
Since coming on board at Atrium, Miller has led the planning and execution of several major renovation projects. Furthermore, he has built professional relationships strong enough to withstand the months-long pause of ongoing projects necessitated by COVID-19. With work now back underway, he will rely on those same relationships as well as his own substantial expertise to continue developing Atrium’s profile in 2021 and beyond.
Miller grew his expertise from the ground up. With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in construction management under his belt, he climbed from an onsite project superintendent role to SVP of design and construction at hospitality management company Davidson Hospitality Group. Along the way, he honed his understanding of the hospitality industry–an understanding that he carried with him into his current role.
Miller made the jump to Atrium after 18 years at Davidson. As an Atrium SVP, he manages the company’s entire capital platform, toggling between portfolio asset protection, design management, and project management duties as needed throughout the day.
For much of 2020, Miller focused on protecting the 80-plus properties in Atrium’s portfolio as the company shut down renovations due to COVID-19. “We had to pull back on a lot of our active projects as well as projects getting ready to go into design for 2021 execution,” he elaborates. “We literally had to come to a halt and preserve capital.”
In all his years in the industry, Miller had never stopped projects cold like he did in 2020. Fortunately, his preexisting emphasis on communication and collaboration paved the way for Atrium to take stock of each active project’s status as part of the demobilization process. “Our contractors, design firms, and procurement companies did a tremendous job in helping me get a handle on the situation. When the time came to remobilize projects, we had a really good accounting of where everything stood,” he says.
At Atrium, remobilization began in late 2020. Miller shifted his attention back to a large-scale renovation of Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa–an expansive hotel and resort amenity complex–that had already been underway for over a year when COVID hit. “We’re at the tail end of our guest room renovations, and we’re right in the heat of renovating the public area recreational pool and resort facilities,” Miller explains.
As he pushes ahead with renovations in Waikiki, Miller is wrapping up a re-concepting of Charlotte Airport Hotel that covers guest rooms, public areas, and all spaces in between. He also has two Embassy Suites projects, in Tampa and Portland, on the horizon. Whereas the Tampa project had an expected conclusion in the end of 2021, the Portland project will likely wrap sometime in 2022.
With multiple projects in the works, Miller continues to concentrate on fostering an open and collaborative atmosphere on his team. Like Miller himself, the team touches diverse functions within Atrium. “I have people in place who are great leaders and subject-matter experts in each of those disciplines,” Miller says. He takes it upon himself to communicate down the overarching direction in which Atrium hopes to move as a company, but he leaves space for his team members to execute based on their individual expertise.
While his internal team keeps him up-to-date across Atrium’s capital program, Miller looks to external partners to relay information at every stage of a project. Whether inside the company or out, relationships remain a priority for him. “We develop our partnerships over many, many years,” he says. “And we do so through trust and communication and by building a solid belief that we can only complete projects by working together.”
Between his collaborative spirit and his in-depth hospitality industry experience, Miller is poised to deliver, no matter the obstacles.