While reading a book on China’s Forbidden City, Bruce Tran saw the phrase “China Gate,” which he said means “happiness and good fortune lie behind that door.”
That’s when Tran knew he had found the name for his Killeen hotel.
Tran is president and chief executive officer of China Gate Hotel and Suites, 1100 S. Fort Hood St., formerly America’s Best Value Inn. He and eight investors faced significant challenges when they purchased the hotel, due to the U-shaped building’s damaged exterior and interior and its bad reputation.
The hotel is currently undergoing major renovations.
“The building suffered from years of neglect,” Tran said.
China Gate is Tran’s first hotel to own, but his eighth corporation in a 16-year business career. The 39-year-old Indianapolis native relocated to Killeen three years ago because he saw a great opportunity for growth in the area.
“Anytime I see an opportunity, I bite,” Tran said.
The second youngest of 10 children, he credits his economically challenged upbringing and strong faith in God for his drive to succeed. Tran also strives to give back to the community.
“You can’t make it in business if God doesn’t bless you,” he said.
Once known as a place for heavy drug and prostitution use, the Killeen hotel was in terrible shape when he purchased it, Tran said. Problems ranged from a leaky roof to termites.
China Gate has three units with 173 rooms.
Thirty-eight rooms out of 68 were remodeled in unit one, with the remaining rooms nearing completion. Unit two has 40 rooms with plans to turn them into 20 suites beginning next year.
Tran enlisted the help of a local contractor and architect to replace moldy drywall, corroded plumbing and faulty wiring. New showers replaced rusty bath tubs.
The hotel also underwent many design changes to upgrade its interior space. Stainless steel light fixtures adorn hallway walls, and a combination of granite tile, red carpet and bamboo tile replaced the stained carpeting. Freshly painted walls of red, gold and brown reflect colors found in Chinese motifs. Imported murals from China cover the lobby walls with lion statures guarding the hotel’s entrance.
Another feature is the hotel’s new Fabbb Salon and Spa.
Scheduled to open in a few weeks is the Brufaye Steak House and Lounge with a dance floor and two large rooms for smokers and nonsmokers.
Each room can hold at least 200 people and will be available for private parties, Tran said.
A new fitness center is slated for part of unit three’s future renovation.
The remodeling project has cost $440,000 so far, Tran said.