As part of an effort to accelerate the growth of its newly launched Bluebird by Lark brand, boutique hotel specialist Lark Hotels recently formed a partnership with Equity Resources Investments, LLC, (ERI) to collectively acquire and develop at least six new properties in the Northeast.
Founded in 2012, Lark Hotels is a hotel development and management company with nearly 40 properties in its portfolio. The Massachusetts-based company is looking to grow its nascent midscale Bluebird brand by repositioning purpose-built hospitality properties in the 40- to 75-key range.
Lark and ERI have been collaborating for several years on a number of properties, the first of which was Summercamp—an 89-room hotel in the Oak Bluffs section of Martha’s Vineyard—and the most recent of which represented the Bluebird brand’s debut with the Spa City Motor Lodge in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Rob Blood, founder and president, Lark Hotels, noted that the company and ERI “have established a really good relationship” as he detailed the driving force behind the additional funding.
“We just decided collectively as we were launching our new Bluebird brand that we should do something that is a little bit more programmatic and portfolio-focused. So we decided that we would commit to doing a handful of deals over the next couple of years to expand Bluebird in the northeast,” he said.
Prior to the aforementioned partnership, Lark already had established a pipeline of six hotels for its Bluebird by Lark brand. In addition to the Spa City Motor Lodge, the Bluebird Parker Beach Lodge recently opened in South Yarmouth, MA, and the 51-room Bluebird Talta Lodge in Stowe, VT, is scheduled to open this October.
Furthermore, Bluebird Sunapee Lake in Sunapee, NH, Bluebird Dennisport in Dennisport, MA, and Bluebird The Hunter in the Catskills in Hunter, NY, are all slated to open next summer.
Blood elaborated on what he sees ahead for the Bluebird brand from a growth standpoint.
“We see it as a national brand, one that’s quite scalable and is in a space that’s very underserved. That 40-75 room market tends to be mom and pop owner/operators that have done a good job, but no one’s really put institutional support behind them. That’s where we see the opportunity and we see endless possibilities. I would casually throw out 100 properties in the next 10 years, but I wouldn’t say we’ve got a business plan for that. We feel like our natural first step is let’s work throughout the northeast,” he said, adding the company plans to actively seek out joint venture partners to expand the brand into other regions such as the Southeast, Pacific Northwest, and the Rocky Mountains.
Blood further detailed one of the key philosophies of the Bluebird brand, which he noted is rooted in family and friend groups traveling together.
“Our focus is on helping people connect the dots along the way and really enjoy the moments in between destinations. So the whole brand was inspired by the idea of hitting the road and the nostalgia for the family road trip that I was feeling during COVID. It’s the whole idea of getting back on the road,” he said, adding that one amenity that guests will receive is a Bluebird Road Trip book that includes classic car trip games.
The Lark portfolio is located in the Northeast, as well as California. Blood noted that the company has a bi-furcated growth strategy based on acquisition and development, as well as third-party management opportunities. In 2020, Lark Hotels launched a third-party management division focused on independent hotels.
“We’re seeing some good growth opportunities across all of our brands and independent properties,” he said.
Blood emphasized that the company positioned itself for rapid post-pandemic growth in part by bringing new personnel in as well as by expanding its tech platform.
“We used the year we had last year to really fortify our infrastructure. We really honed in on things we viewed as critical for expansion, knowing or hoping there would be some opportunity when the world emerged from COVID,” he said.
In fact, Lark last week entered into a new partnership with New Orleans-based hospitality group, Angevin & Co., founded by restaurateur and entrepreneur Robert Thompson. The two companies will introduce neighborhood-centric boutique hotel experiences centered around placemaking restaurant concepts with imaginative culinary and bar programs, according to Lark Hotels.
The inaugural project for the partnership is the reintroduction of The Frenchmen Hotel, located on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, and set to open in Q4 2021.
Blood expressed optimism as the company moves into the next phase of its growth.
“I feel pretty excited about the opportunities that are out there and all the spaces that we’re in. We’re continuing to bring really design-forward, authentic experiences to people through our platform. The next year-and-a-half is going to be real exciting for us as we relaunch our web platforms and our different segments,” he concluded.