Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Is Starwood Bringing Aloft To Center City? Is The Starwood Real Estate Group Not As Dim As First Presumed... Or Are They Even Dumber??

aloft hotel on chestnut street in philadelphiaIt would appear that Starwood — the same Starwood that infamously decided to locate one of their very first urban-hipster-Aloft-brand hotels in an amazingly un-hip and un-urban location next to the Philadelphia Airport — has, in fact, recently been trying to develop not one but two Aloft hotels in — wait for it — Center City.

‘No shit’ is right.

We were pretty surprised to hear this because, while it surely makes perfect business sense for Starwood to open an Aloft (or two) in Center City, at this point we have pretty much zero confidence in the Starwood Real Estate Group to do anything remotely approaching wise or prudent when it comes to selecting locations for their company's hotel projects in Philadelphia.

But anyway.

Where are/were the two Alofts slated to be built?

One was to be on the 700 block of Chestnut Street (above), and the other at 15th and Locust.

We’re assuming the one on the 700 block of Chestnut Steet would be a new-build on the surface parking lot between 707 and Morimoto. This project was mentioned in this week’s Business Journal as one of several hotel projects in Philadelphia that have been delayed or kiboshed altogether on account of the credit crunch, of course without specifying which.

Intriguing because if it's been canned entirely, then Starwood is, in fact, dumber than rocks. If it's been tabled, then Starwood still has some credibility (albeit waning). Because it is definitely a smart location. The 700 block of Chestnut Street is currently Chestnut’s best block between 3rd and 13th, really. You have Jones, Morimoto, 707, Aqua, and Stephen Starr’s to-be-named gastropub and micro-hotel.

And Aloft would be a pretty shrewd addition. The hotel would be located within short walking distance of both Old City (2nd and Chestnut is 5 blocks away) and Midtown Village (13th and Sansom is 6 blocks away), both very vibrant and young nighttime destinations, not to mention being a block away from one of the most visited historic attraction areas in the country.

( Note: Unknot’s location is still way better, or more appropriate, for the GHM property. )

As for the location at 15th and Locust, we don’t really know anything about it. Our best guess is they’re targeting either the small lot next to Misconduct or part of the Lewis Tower building on the northeast corner that has been under renovation recently.

However, Alofts are supposed to be new-builds (i.e. new construction hotels) so the Lewis Tower option doesn’t exactly fit their model.

(Anyone care to enlighten us?)

UPDATE: Someone just did. It looks like they're targeting the property on the northwest corner of 15th and Locust, 1501 Locust to be exact — wanting to demolish the building currently there and construct a new 20-story Aloft hotel in its place. New-build indeed.

Now obviously, the thing to keep in mind about both of these projects is that neither is a definite — rather, it’s more likely that both have been put into a holding pattern by Starwood, while they decide whether or not to remove their diapers/panties and invest in a sure-thing.

We certainly hope — for Starwood’s sake — that the Starwood Real Estate Group doesn’t repeat the same mistake they made in 2006 and miss out on another golden opportunity by deciding again not to open an Aloft in Center City Philadelphia.

Because their Aloft Philadelphia Airport is slated to open in October of this year and they’re already accepting reservations online. About which, we'd like to assure them of one thing: if this first Aloft was located at either 15th and Locust or 7th and Chestnut, there would be a helluva lot more buzz around its opening and a helluva lot more people clamoring to make reservations (already) than there are about their lame pseudo-airport location. We guarantee it.

So Starwood, hate to sound all brash and/or condescending about it, but shit, you don’t exactly deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Hopefully, you don’t screw the pooch again and not build an Aloft downtown again, because that would just be, like, thirty-two times more stupid than not building one downtown the first go-around.

But were definitely not going to put it past you.

Oh, it’s true, brosef.

Related:
An Iffy Prognosis For Hotel Projects [ Philadelphia Business Journal ]
Previously:
Hotel Hotwire on The Illadelph

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