Morning Headlines: More Info On Planned W / Element Hotels Coming Next Week

Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

1441 Chestnut. Photo by Sandy Smith via the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

According to PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey, the developers of the planned W and Element Hotels at 15th and Chestnut (currently a parking lot) don’t need zoning variances to build their project. For this reason, their meeting with the Center City Residents Association next week, where they will present their new designs, will be for informational purposes only.

Here’s what to expect of the double tower:

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED Certification for the building.

Lenfest, if you recall, caused waves last year when he requested (and got) $33 million in tax breaks for the project.

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Update on Two Big Projects at 15th and Chestnut

The latest available rendering of Brook Lenfest's proposed dual-hotel tower, via this recent Center City District report

The latest available rendering of Brook Lenfest’s proposed dual-hotel tower, via this recent Center City District report

We’re seeing progress on two major projects that’ll radically change the intersection of 15th and Chestnut: Brook Lenfest’s long-discussed W and Element hotel tower right behind the Residences at the Ritz Carlton, and, right across 15th Street, Alterra Property Group and the Scully Company’s conversion of 150,000 square feet of class B office space into 180 apartments, with a small amount of office and retail space. (That latter project was mentioned in an Inquirer story a few days ago.)

Earlier today, we noticed that the parking lot on the hotel site was closed (temporarily, a sign said). Philly Chit Chat’s HughE Dillon explains:

This week they are beginning to test the soil in anticipation for the building as well as the extensive underground parking lot they’re building.  Last week officials from the project went around to the surrounding buildings, including the new Alterra project, and took photos of them inside an out – “The Before Photos”, just in case vibrations from the drilling and building the W causes any cracks in the neighboring buildings.

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The W Hotel Tax Break: Foolish or Defensible?

1441 chestnut street

Photo of 1441 Chestnut Street via Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

So let’s see if I’ve gotten this right: The real reason the bigger, bolder Pennsylvania Convention Center is empty much of the time and getting emptier is because we don’t have enough hotel rooms.

This comes as a total surprise to me. Here I’ve been laboring under the conventional wisdom that the center’s well publicized labor (and labor cost) problems are the main reason conventions are staying away in droves.

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Brook Lenfest Accused in W Hotel Real Estate Deal–Again

Brook J. Lenfest, scion of philantropist Gerry Lenfest and owner of the Chestnut Street site slated to be the new Starwood Element/W Hotel, is in hot water again. The 22,400-square-foot parcel was originally purchased in 2000 by Lenfest and a group others–including Mariner Chestnut Partners L.P.–for $11.15 million. Plans (Waldorf Astoria, anyone?) ensued and tanked and were pitched and ditched. Litigation has been endless.

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