It’s quite possible that if Scott Hammons, vice president of design and construction for Bethesda, Maryland-based DiamondRock Hospitality, hadn’t attended the New Paltz campus of the State University of New York, he never would have found his way into hospitality.
More than anything this is due to the allure of neighboring Victorian-era resort, Mohonk Mountain House. “I got a summer job and wound up working there for five years in pretty much every department and learning the value of experiential hospitality.”
A five-year stint at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants followed, leading to his deepening understanding of lifestyle brands. As Hammons worked to launch Kimpton’s first East Coast properties, he experienced “an ‘aha moment’ that even downtown business hotels didn’t have to be cookie-cutter,” he says. “I was involved in weaving the story of each hotel into everything from the names of the meeting rooms to the design of the do not disturb door hangings.”
Bigger projects followed, including reopening the historic Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with Ian Schrager (“I learned about attention to detail” working with the visionary hotelier, he says) and, as director of project management for Hilton, helping reposition the massive Hilton New York Midtown and the iconic Art Deco Waldorf-Astoria New York, among others.
It was a trajectory that eventually led to his role at real estate investment trust DiamondRock, an ownership group that specializes in retooling existing properties. “One of the interesting parts of my career,” Hammons says, “is that I’ve never been responsible for a new build.” In fact, he believes working in historic and existing buildings to be a more rewarding endeavor, and finds the energy of collaborating with design firms—including Wilson Ishihara, EoA, HBA, and more—as both playful and inspiring.
As DiamondRock begins to rebound from the construction delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Hammons is looking ahead to more unique unveilings—including an update to the lobby and Toro restaurant at the JW Marriott at Denver Cherry Creek from Los Angeles firm Beleco. “We’re a lot more involved in the design process than other ownership groups,” he points out. “We’re happy to challenge the brands we work with to push the envelope.”
This article originally appeared in HD’s July 2020 issue.