Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hotel Hotwire: Renaissance (Marriott) and Westin (Starwood) Vie To Be Drexel’s Big Man Hotel On Campus

a marriott renaissance proposed for drexel university, market street in philadelphiaDrexel’s wants to add a new hotel and conference center to the eastern edge of its campus. The University is currently evaluating two proposals from competing national brands, a Renaissance by Marriott (above) and a Westin by Starwood (below).

The hotel is to be sited on the lot directly to the west of 30th Street Station, between 30th and 31st Streets, on what is currently a parking lot.
A Drexel hotel and conference center between One Drexel Plaza and 30th Street Station went from rumor to reality for many students at the luncheon when Francis presented designs from two competing hotel chains.

One design for the hotel was submitted by Marriott International Inc. as a Marriott Renaissance hotel, and the other was submitted by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. as a Westin hotel.

Drexel will not be constructing the hotels; rather, a ground-lease agreement will be signed between Drexel and the winning hotel chain. The agreement will provide the chain with a 50 to 90-year lease in exchange for constructing the hotel on Drexel property. The hotel is currently projected to be constructed by fall 2011.

Without knowing very many details, i.e. on the surface, this is a very smart development.

In the immediate future, 30th Street Station is only going to become more and more heavily used. Amtrak ridership is up 15% nationwide this year and more than 20% on the Northeast Corridor specifically.

And with forthcoming developments like the American Commerce Center and Cira Centre South in addition to the just-completed Comcast Center, the amount of people taking Amtrak to Philadelphia is going to skyrocket. (Not to mention SEPTA regional rail.)

Moreover, just consider that the airport has, like, 25 hotels. Obviously, 30th Street Station should have at least one immediately adjacent hotel property.

That said, Drexel needs to scrutinize the details of both designs very closely. The development should be as urban-friendly as possible and extremely transit-oriented, considering its location.

Hopefully, neither proposal calls for an inordinate amount of parking, as Cira II does. (A 2,400-car garage? Right next to 30th Street Station?? Dumbest. Fucking. Development. EVER. Seriously. The Real Estate Devel team at Penn have to be fucking brain dead for their involvement with this one. Hopefully Professor Vuchic can sort them out.)

Everything built around 30th Street Station should be built for pedestrians first, not automobiles. The area surrounding 30th Street Station should not feel like a highway on- and off-ramp — as it currently feels — but rather like a pleasant, pedestrian-oriented connection between Center City and University City.

With Cira Centre to the north, Cira 2 to the south, and this hotel to the west, 30th Street station is finally getting the adjacent development was predicted to happen some eight decades ago.

Let’s make sure we get the design right so the next eighty years of the Station's existence aren’t started off with ass-backwards planning.

Development Plans Revealed At Luncheon [ Drexel Triangle ]
Getting On Board With Amtrak’s Needs [ Boston Globe ]
Gas Prices Send Surge of Riders to Mass Transit [ New York Times ]


Anonymous said...

I heard these proposals just involved hotel franchises, and the parent companies (Starwood/Marriott) weren't involved directly. Any ideas what developers or hotel operators are making their pitch to Drexel?

LVTfan said...

Explain to me why Drexel should get the land rent instead of the city of Philadelphia, which provides
fire protection
elevator inspections
SEPTA buses
SEPTA trains
a station for Amtrak
street maintenance and plowing
city water, sewers, stormwater management ...

You get the idea -- shouldn't the land rent be Philadelphia's public treasure, rather than a revenue stream for an entity that didn't create the land, didn't build the infrastructure, isn't paying for the infrastructure because it is tax exempt?

What a deal!

Between Philly's wage tax and its too-low property tax, no wonder those who can leave have left for the suburbs, producing traffic congestion way west of Philly, and huge blight in the city.

If you want to restore Philadelphia, the way to do it is to collect for public purposes the economic value of its sites -- particularly those which are especially well-served by infrastructure such as SEPTA, Amtrak, the expressway and other interstates. That value belongs to all of us, or should. Letting Drexel and other private entities treat is as their own is DUMB!