Friday, September 16, 2011

Phila. breaks ground for Old City hotel

By Suzette Parmley
"With 268 rooms overlooking Independence Mall in the heart of what is often referred to as the most historic square mile in the country, the four-star Monaco Hotel will be one of only two city hotels to open next year.

So Mayor Nutter gave the new hotel and the 200 permanent jobs and 400 construction jobs it brings an official welcome Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony where the Lafayette Building currently sits, at Fifth and Chestnut Streets. As an adaptive reuse project, the Monaco will take over the historic building.

"We have been long awaiting this particular property," said Nutter, just before posing with Niki Leondakis, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants president and chief operating officer. The duo donned hard hats and each got behind a jack hammer and a pile of concrete cinder blocks.

For San Francisco-based Kimpton, this is the company's second investment in the city. It opened the 230-room, four-star Palomar at 17th and Sansom Streets in October 2009.

Nutter said he has stayed at the Monaco in Washington and was excited to bring the luxury brand here. Giving a nod to the Phillies' fifth straight year of advancing to the postseason, the mayor said that by this time next year, fans will be able stay at the Monaco to catch a weekend series with the Phils.

"This will be a spectacular property," he said.

Designed with the sophisticated world traveler in mind, the Monaco, in Old City, will feature brightly colored, whimsical, high-energy spaces filled with pieces that a traveler might have collected along the way.

For the last four years, the vacant Lafayette has been a drag in that highly visible area.

When it opens next summer, the Monaco will be the first new hotel in the Society Hill/Old City area in a decade. The 350-room Hyatt Regency opened in 2000 at Penn's Landing, and the 147-room Omni Hotel opened in 1990 at Independence Park.

"This will bring some new life to the area's hotel supply and, frankly, upgrade the overall quality level of the hotel product in this part of the city," said hospitality expert Peter Tyson, vice president of PKF Consulting USA. "It should draw more upscale tourist and commercial demand to the area and offer an upscale lodging alternative for the more discriminating visitors already staying in the area."

The Monaco will add to a Center City hotel inventory of about 10,700 rooms. It joins the 136-unit Homewood Suites in University City as the only two new hotels scheduled to open next year."

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