A banner covers the old sign for the Marriott University Park Hotel. The hotel will continue independently.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

The Marriott University Park Hotel parted ways with the Marriott brand Thursday after a 20-year franchise agreement expired.

“We have become independent,” said Mark Van Buren, the hotel’s general manager. “We are now Tucson University Park Hotel.”

Owned by Georgia-based Atrium Holdings, the 250-room hotel, at 880 E. Second St., opened in 1996.

Van Buren said he was not part of the negotiations with Marriott and did not have information on why Marriott did not want to continue the lease.

At a meeting of the Pima County Real Estate Research Council on Thursday morning, Jerry Hawkins, of Hawkins Cole Hospitality, said the reason for the de-branding was because the owners would not remodel the hotel.

In response to questions from the audience about the value of the branding, Hawkins said it was “significant” because many travelers book through Marriott’s website to get loyalty rewards.

Van Buren, however, is confident that Tucson University Park Hotel will be successful independently, given its location near the University of Arizona.

“We have among the highest occupancy rates in the city,” he said, “and we’re right next to the biggest generator of visitors.”

The owners were still in negotiations with Marriott on Thursday, Van Buren said, but the Marriott sign was covered up on the building until there’s a resolution.

No changes to room rates or amenities were expected and guests should not notice the transition, he said.

“Nothing has changed,” Van Buren said. “The same managers and owners are still here.”

The nine-story hotel sits on land owned by the Marshall Foundation that is leased to Atrium.

“We are confident that it will work out OK,” said Jane McCollum, the foundation’s general manager.

She agreed with Van Buren that the independent hotel would succeed, and likewise said she was not privy to how Marriott’s decision came about.

"This is an amicable and mutual decision between Marriott and Atrium Hospitality," A Marriot spokesman said via email. "Both parties are working together to ensure a seamless transition.  This action is specific to this one hotel as Marriott remains committed to Tucson as a great destination."

Its newest Tucson hotel, AC Marriott, is expected to open later this year on Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Marriott has also announced it will add its Moxy Hotel to downtown Tucson, above the Depot Garage, just west of Hotel Congress.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com.