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A Dose Of Differentiation

Repositionings, Adaptive Reuse Projects Can Offer Significant Opportunity

Friday, December 02, 2016
Steve Pike
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One of the best things about resorts and hotels is that they are like people, in that they come in all shapes and sizes and with different stories and histories.

So as the number of “new” hotel/resort openings has dwindled the past few years, it’s become imperative for developers, owners and managers to reinvest in existing properties. In some cases owners will even look to repurpose properties that were built for something else in an effort to turn them into a first-class hotel or resort.

A good example of that is The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens that will open in early 2017 in St. Augustine, FL. The Collector features a set of nine buildings (seven of them guest houses) repurposed from historic houses dating back to 1790. Encompassing an entire block on the edge of Old Town in St. Augustine, The Collector is on the site of the former Dow Museum of Historic Houses.

In Lexington, KY, the 21c Museum Hotel Lexington is an 88-room property that was transformed from the city’s historic 103-year-old First National Bank Building.

The Hotel Skyler in Syracuse, NY, is a former temple and theater that now features reclaimed local materials, including Tiffany-styled stained glass windows from a church in Oswego, NY; lobby casework from a deconstructed warehouse in Syracuse; and where possible, architectural details preserved from the original temple – decorative corbels, window casings and ornamental trim.

The Argos Inn in Ithaca, NY, was built in the early 1800s and in the 1950’s was the world headquarters for Duncan Hines. The 10-room boutique hotel relied on local artisans for all facets of renovation, from the meticulously restored architectural details and blacksmith work on the railings, bar stools and coffee tables, to the custom-made furniture and specialty artwork, including a hand-blown glass chandelier, provided by famed Finger Lakes glassmaker, Christian Thirion.

“One of the great things about the adaptive re-use of old buildings to create new hotels is the opportunity they present to create a unique property,” said Larry Spelts, vp, business development for Charlestowne Hotels, which manages the aforementioned repurposed hotel, as well as others.

“In today's paradigm of highly commoditized, chain hotels, differentiating oneself as unique is a huge competitive advantage,” said Spelts. “Not many management companies are well-suited to the unique challenges of these assets, so as a management company that is strong in this area, it has been a tremendous source of growth for Charlestowne Hotels.”

But with this distinctiveness, Spelts said, come some challenges, including the multitude of room types available in a repurposed hotel building. Unlike the typical chain hotel, he said, there is no standardization of room shapes, sizes, features, category classification, etc., for the hotel within a unique, repurposed building.

“While we may have to develop descriptive content for only three- or four-room types for a new-build flagged property, a unique, adaptive re-use project may require our in-house creative team to come up with names and descriptions for a dozen unit types,” said Spelts. “This same attribute also complicates housekeeping since there is not hotel-wide standardization, so it requires that we operate with more attention to detail.

“The upside is that this attention to detail enhances the quality of the guest experience. Overall, we are finding that guests prefer these types of properties, and the ones that we have the pleasure of managing are consistently taking market share well above what would be regarded as fair market share.”

Spelts said Charlestowne Hotels doesn’t have an exact number of repurposed hotel properties in the U.S., but “One thing that we do know is that whatever the number is, we may expect it to possibly double within the next five years as we have seen our pipeline of new hotel development projects that are unique, adaptive re-use projects mushroom this past year—from the independent to the soft-brand. It is an exciting time for us to be in this sector of hotel development.

“We know that consumers want something different and unique for their lodging—an experience that transcends the usual cookie-cutter product. We also see a lot of public incentives that aid developers in repurposing old and obsolete structures, so the financing for these types of hotel projects becomes more attractive.”

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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