Morning Headlines: Proposed Hotel Near Convention Center Clears Hurdle

The existing building, courtesy of this sale flyer

PlanPhilly reports that a proposal to construct a 12-story addition atop the former Warner Bros. distribution center on 13th Street just north of the Pennsylvania Convention Center received approval from the Philadelphia Historical Commission on July 11, and has video of the meeting. An earlier version of the proposal was rejected in June by the commission’s Architecture Committee.

The two-story Art Moderne building, designed by Frank Furness protege William H. Lee, was recently listed as being for sale for $2.75 million. It is currently owned by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

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Survey: Philly Hotels Are Most Highly Rated Online

hotel monaco

Hotel Monaco has certainly improved the city’s hotel landscape. Photo: Hotel Monaco.

You think this city isn’t friendly? Think again. TravelMag.com reports that out of 30 destination cities, Philadelphia got the highest percentage of positive reviews of its three- and four-star hotels in the last year on Expedia.com.

The other cities in the top 10 were Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Charlotte, D.C., Boston, Austin, Indianapolis, and Houston.

Excellent Ratings Achieved for Hotels in Philadelphia [TravelMag.com]

Charming Cape May B&B Gets National Attention

cape-may-opener
Popular with tourists, this Victorian inn was built in 1905 on one of Cape May’s oldest streets and boasts 30-plus years in the hospitality business. Now that it’s on the market, Curbed National has taken note of the merits of this long-established bed & breakfast.

The aptly named Windward House Inn, in Cape May’s historic district, could become a private residence or remain an inn, though Cape May B&Bs are still struggling in Sandy’s wake. Could this account for the property’s $90K price cut of four days ago?

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Philly Hotels: Stop Whining About W and Element and Clean Up Your Act

Woman at business hotel

Photo | Veer

In the news this week: Another Philly hotel battle.

A bunch of hotels are ganging up on one of their own. A group that calls itself the “Concerned Hotel Owners of Philadelphia,” along with the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, are  upset that the city is offering tax breaks to a developer who’s looking to construct a 700-room W and Element Hotel on Chestnut Street. Part of their argument is “the sorry state of Center City’s hotel industry. It just can’t support another hotel, especially one this size.”

Guys, please:  Stop fighting each other. You’ve got other things to worry about than getting involved in these petty squabbles. There’s plenty of opportunity to grow in Philadelphia. There’s plenty of room for you all. Instead of wasting your time with this nonsense, how about if you consider addressing some of the problems in your own backyard?  Like maybe taking a few simple steps to make your hotels better for the business traveller.  That’s me.  I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotel rooms over the past few years.  And special announcement:  You all still have some work to do.  What kind of work?  Here are 7 suggestions.

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Center City Hotel Owners Think W Hotel Is a Bad Bet; Lenfest Says They’re Just Jealous

1441 chestnut street

Photo of 1441 Chestnut Street via Philadelphia Real Estate Blog

Yesterday the Concerned Hotel Owners of Philadelphia published an open letter questioning the wisdom of opening a 700-room hotel in downtown Philadelphia — and particularly with public monies. From the letter:

Philadelphia’s downtown hotel market is not strong enough to absorb another 700 rooms on top of what’s already planned without cannibalizing business from existing properties. The next few years are projected to be generally flat for the Center City hotel market due to moderate increases in supply, but only modest increases in demand and continued pressures on average room rate.

Occupancy currently sits below that of other major East Coast markets, and property revenues are projected to grow far slower than most other major markets over the next three years.

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First Look: New Home2Suites Hotel Opens Tuesday With High Convention Center Hopes

It always happens this way with new construction. A site looks like a pile of steel beams for months and overnight a real building emerges. To wit: the $60 million Home2 Suites is opening to the public on Tuesday. It is the first hotel to be built from scratch in Center City in a decade.

The Hilton property features 248 rooms – including 22 enormous suites – as well as a fitness center, pool, Wii-enabled game lounge and a bevy of sustainability features. In exchange for $3 million in funding from EnergyWorks, the Wurzak Group (which has partnered with the Parkway Corporation on the new hotel), has installed energy-efficient appliances in the kitchenettes included in each hotel room. Rooms also feature motion-sensitive lighting and public spaces are lit with LED bulbs. There is, of course, a green roof.

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AC’s Historic Madison House Hotel Goes for $1.25M Below Asking Price

Four million dollars–that’s all it took for a Florida investor, Eli Hadad, to purchase the grand Madison House Hotel at auction. When the 121,000-square-foot property was on the market, it was listed at $5.25 million. At auction last week, the bidding started at $4 million. Hadad was the winning bidder because he was the only bidder.

The 14-story Madison was built in 1929 with a stairway modeled after the grand stairway inside Independence Hall. And while the resemblance is certainly striking, the acoustic ceiling above doesn’t quite fit in. Not only that, but the property itself looks like it’s seen better days. Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have potential. Look at the hulking mess that’s the Divine Lorraine–everyone believes that has potential, and there’s barely a scrap left.

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Rittenhouse Hotel Renovation Begins: Biecker to Leave, Lacroix to Stay

bieckerThough the Hersha Hotel chain bought the Rittenhouse Hotel more than a year ago, the visible rehab and renovation efforts are quite recent. Today, smartly dressed young men scurry around with swatches and new light fixtures appear on the wall, looking more Hotel Monaco than classic, staid Rittenhouse. This should be interesting.

There has been apprehension among the Rittenhousers that Hersha, which doesn’t have much five-star experience, wouldn’t retain the five-star designation. Then Lacroix panic briefly set in–without the five stars, would Lacroix stay? Not to worry: Hersha will keep the five stars and Lacroix will remain.

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The Warwick’s Bartender, Don Rickles, Is Going Blu in the Face

Center City’s Radisson Plaza Warwick Hotel on 17th Street near Little Pete’s (the most important city landmark in the vicinity) is getting rebranded as the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel Philadelphia as of next year. What does that rebranding involve? Upgraded guestrooms and hallways, and a new lobby. And, of course, new marketing.

The hotel will stay open during its transformation, which is good for the employees, who are–judging by the write-ups on Trip Advisor–the nicest human beings in the Philadelphia hospitality industry. One guest even compared the bartender to Don Rickles. Here are a few other comments:

Was greeted with a friendly smile and warm welcome by each and every hotel staff member that I encountered.

I cannot say nicer things about how well the hotel staff treated us.

From the bellmen, to the front desk staff to the concierge, to the staffs at the restaurants -everybody was friendly, courteous and extremely helpful…It seemed that everyone on staff went out of their way to not only smile and be pleasant no matter what your request, but went the “extra 10%” to provide outstanding service.

The front desk clerk knew I wanted a quiet room and took her time to find me a corner room, she was extremely friendly, the perfect welcome to my getaway.

We also ate at Tavern 17, great food and drinks, super happy hour with the bartender “Don Rickles” looked and acted like him, needless to say funny man

One recent guest did mention the renovation, but didn’t seem to feel it was intrusive. Let’s hope Don Rickles agrees.

Renovated Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia to Operate Under Radisson Blu Signature

Speculating on Stephen Starr’s Hotels

Stephen Starr has been talking about hotels for years. This Philadelphia Business Journal article has Starr getting into the hotel business back in 2004. But then came the economic downturn and boutique hotels stayed on the back burner. So during ThinkFest Starr mentioned opening two boutique hotels in Philadelphia. One near Rittenhouse Square and another in Fishtown.

So that got us sniffing around for where those hotels might be »

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