A hotel project planned for 1441 Chestnut St. will house two distinct brands - a four-star luxury W Hotel and a three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin hotel, according to those involved in developing the former One Meridian Plaza location.
Both brands are owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. Although the dual-brand approach has not been formally announced - insiders say Starwood wants to secure all financing first - the information appeared this week on a website of Vine Street Ventures Inc. of Dallas, development partner of local businessman Brook J. Lenfest, who owns the site.
Groundbreaking is scheduled for late spring or early summer. In an interview Tuesday, Lenfest said the size of the hotel - slated for 50 stories - was ideal for having two brands.
"Operationally and financially, it is stronger as a two-flag hotel . . . because it crosses more market segments - leisure, business, everything," he said.
With two brands in one, Lenfest added, "you don't necessarily need two general managers or two pools. You do need two lobbies."
Lenfest said he was working on hiring an interior designer and focusing on obtaining state and city subsidies to complete the project.
Vine Street Ventures specializes in mixed-use hospitality projects and has designed a number of W Hotels across the country, including those in San Francisco, Dallas, and San Diego.
On its website Tuesday, the company described the 1441 Chestnut St. location, a half-acre surface parking lot next to the Ritz-Carlton condo tower, as "one of the most desirable parcels of real estate in the city of Philadelphia - at the core of the Center City central business district, surrounded by the Pennsylvania Convention Center, cultural landmarks, museums, world-class shopping, and dining."
"This collaboration of two very distinct hotels in one structure will set a precedent in the city of Philadelphia by delivering multiple experiences within one space, and enabling the project to maximize its marketability and operational efficiency," the website said.
The Chestnut Street site has been vacant since the fire-destroyed One Meridian Plaza was leveled in 1999.
In October 2008, developer Timothy J. Mahoney III of Mariner Commercial Properties Inc. of Ardmore announced plans to convert the property into a 58-story Waldorf-Astoria operated by Hilton Hotels Corp. But the recession hit, and financing dried up. By spring 2009, the project had been put on ice.
In October 2010, Mahoney sold his 50 percent stake to Lenfest's Chestlen Development Group L.P. of Bala Cynwyd for $12 million at auction.
The $280 million, LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project now planned is billed as having a sky lobby; 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, including a restaurant; an outdoor pool and bar; meeting space; and a spa and fitness center.
"I think it is a game-changer for Chestnut Street and a real coup for the city," said David Ertz, a partner at Cope Linder Architects of Philadelphia, which will be project architect.
Starwood declined to comment on the hotel's dual-brand concept, but it praised the Center City market, now home to 44 hotels. The new W will join a spate of upscale boutique hotels that have opened recently, including Hotel Monaco, which opened Oct. 11.
"We continue to believe Philadelphia would be a great market for our leading global brands and are committed to actively working with Chestlen Development to bring this much-needed new-build hotel project to the city," said Trey Sarten, head of global public relations for W Hotels Worldwide and for Le Meridien hotel locally.
"Ah, finally, the long-sought W! Can Philadelphia be getting younger as it grows older?" asked Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.
"W hotels have a youthful, sociable, comfortably luxurious appeal, very in tune with the creative energy that characterizes our city today," Levitz said. "As such, it is a good brand and a good experience for Philadelphia to have."
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