Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hotel Hotwire: Rumblings from the masses

Ace Hotel Portland[ We know it’s been too long. What can we say? ]

- Alright, so the latest news is that part of the old YMCA Central Branch building at 1421 Arch Street has been sold and is to be developed into a luxury hotel. This in anticipation of the Convention Center expansion. The sale included the main lobby and floors 5-10 of the Horace Trumbaurer-designed edifice. The brand name hotel chain has yet to be announced. Our money is on it not being a Mandarin. [Inquirer]

- Looking for a cool new trendy hotel, one replete with a sophisticated style and atmosphere, and an urban-influenced design with loft-like, nine-foot ceilings and oversized windows? The Aloft business model wants to deliver that to you… except in a completely fabricated, non-urban setting. Having already secured a random location at the Philadelphia Airport, Starwood recently announced they’re bringing another Aloft to the area, in beautiful Mount Laurel New Jersey (in what was originally going to be a Westin). A terrific business model indeed. Look out Laurel Inn. [PhillyBurbs]

- Tavern 17 is slated to open late next week in the first floor of the Radisson Warwick Hotel on 17th Street. The Radisson completely gutted the space, which formerly held Circles off the Square, to make room for Tavern, which won’t really resemble your typical tavern. Instead, it’ll boast a more contemporary design with exposed brick, plush leather banquettes and room for 170. They’ll also be lots of wine (1000+ bottles), small plates and dog-friendly alfresco seating. Super.

- Other hotels are still earmarked for inclusion in condominium developments that have yet to break ground, including Mandeville Place (at 24th and Walnut), the 1601 Vine megaplex (w/ Whole Foods), Bridgeman’s View in Northern Liberties as well as the recently announced Stamper Square development proposed for the former NewMarket site at Front and Lombard. None of the hotel brands, purported to be distinguished national chains, have been announced.

- And, finally, Marriott has announced plans for a new, 650-room Renaissance Hotel at the northwest corner of Broad and Race in anticipation of the impending convention center expansion. Bully for them. [Inquirer]

If it seems like we’re not all that excited, it’s because we’re still waiting for the awesome independent hotel Philadelphia should have had, like, four years ago. We empathize with the folks at HotelChatter:
Hotels in Philadelphia seem to do very little to make us want to visit there. Yes, we know its the birthplace of our country, and there's all sorts of history there like Ben Franklin, Liberty Bell, Rocky, blah, blah, blah. But there isn't one hotel in the city that we are dying to check-into.
They have a point. Don’t get us wrong — the new hotels are great. And we’re thrilled that the occupancy rate is trending higher and higher. But, come on, will someone with an inkling of individual creativity and vision please step up and develop an original Philadelphia hotel. (For inspiration, please see the Portland's Ace Hotel.) We are not talking rocket science here.

We can only hope the respective plans of Mr. Starr and Mr. Stein are progressing.

P.S. If you want to read an article that exemplifies why Inga Saffron is an amazing architecture critic (read asset) for the Inquirer and an invaluable design advocate for the city of Philadelphia, read her column about the Convention Center expansion, Growth great for conventions, grave for the city. Then check out the Philly Skyline photo essay, In The Way of Progress.

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