The Parker Spruce Hotel | Photos: James Jennings
The Washington Square West Civic Association held a public meeting last Tuesday night regarding the redevelopment of the Parker Spruce Hotel at 13th and Spruce Street.
The room at Bluemle Hall on Thomas Jefferson University’s campus was packed with people waiting in anticipation to not only hear about the news plans for a hotel billed as a new three-and-a-half, four star establishment, but also to have their voices heard by the presenters, The Wankawala Organization, regarding the Parker Spruce’s traumatic past and damaging present taking place during interior demolition.
The information-only session became heated, but all in attendance were in agreement that something needed to change at this corner.
The Plan: Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott
The meeting started out swell. Owner Mihir Wankawala provided a taste of his personal background, mainly about how he moved to America from India at age 11, later went to Drexel, worked for Verizon and bought his first hotel property in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 2005. That’s the CliffsNotes version of how The Wankawala Organization came to be and now it employs hundreds of people spread over 10 brand name hotels in the Mid-Atlantic region. Wonderful.
A small fire on October 20, 2014 ultimately led to the closure of the building and, after four years of managing the property, The Wankawala Organization announced in April that they had officially acquired the hotel.
Given its history, Wankawala explained why the property remained in its seedy state: “I know a lot of you are upset with what we did after we took over in terms of the management, but again we just took the property under control because we couldn’t get the financing at that time … We are a well-run, well-experienced, professional organization who doesn’t have a record in running a property like this. So it was very hard to find people to run a property like this. Given that, that’s history, that’s past. I want to focus on [its] future and how we can make this a great success.”
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