|By Thomas C. Palmer Jr., The Boston Globe|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 7, 2004 - The Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel in Allston is for sale, and its great views of the Charles River may soon be owned instead of rented nightly.
The 308-suite hotel is at the center of a hot bidding contest, with almost 100 potential owners expressing serious interest in the property, according to someone involved in the marketing who asked not to be identified.
One interested party, the person said, is Harvard University, which owns much of the land around the hotel, built in 1985 on the site of a Coca-Cola plant that for decades was a landmark for drivers on Soldiers Field Road and the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Although there is no formal asking price for the hotel, the broker handling the sale, Eastdil Realty Co. LLC of New York, has put the replacement cost at $100 million, an indication of how high the sale price could be.
From the interest expressed so far, the real value of the Doubletree is in its potential conversion to residences -- either for students or staff at one of the nearby universities, or for condominiums, where comparable properties are selling for about $750 per square foot, according to Eastdil.
The suites, typically 470 square feet and different from the single-room configuration in a conventional hotel, would make conversion to condominiums relatively easy. The 15-story hotel has a 314-space parking garage. The owner, Boston HSR Limited Partnership, spent $4 million to rehabilitate the property between 2000 and 2001.
The hotel also houses the popular jazz club Scullers, which has featured pianist George Shearing, singer Nancy Wilson, and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
The Doubletree started out as an Embassy Suites, developed by Beacon Cos., which was then one of Boston's most active development firms. The lodging became a Guest Quarters Suite Hotel in 1998 after Beacon purchased that chain the year before. Guest Quarters Hotels of Boston and Doubletree Hotels Corp. of Phoenix merged in 1993, forming a company with 96 hotels and 24,000 rooms in 72 cities.
Boston HSR Limited Partnership is offering the Doubletree property for refinancing or for sale. The company declined to comment.
Harvard has developed a plan for its Allston acreage, across the river from its main campus, emphasizing creation of a life-sciences complex, professional schools, and graduate and undergraduate housing. In June, Harvard chose renowned architect Frank Gehry to create a long-range planning framework for the 200-acre campus.
Lauren Marshall, a Harvard spokeswoman, would not confirm that the university is interested in the hotel property. "We're aware the hotel has been listed for sale," she said. "We don't comment on whether we're considering specific real estate purchases."
Boston HSR is a real estate partnership consisting of about 150 limited partners.
Bids are due next week on the property, which is adjacent to Houghton Chemical Corp. The Doubletree and Houghton are the only pieces of property among 91 acres south of Cambridge Street that are not owned by Harvard. Harvard's land is also bounded by Soldiers Field Road and the turnpike. Harvard bought the 91 acres from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority last year for $75 million.
The person involved in the marketing of the Doubletree said Boston HSR was taking advantage of today's strong residential market, the large amount of capital available for investment, and possibly Harvard's growing interest in that area.
Boston has seen a flurry of luxury housing developments, including the Ritz-Carlton Towers at Boston Common and developer Ronald M. Druker's Atelier|505 in the South End. The Museum Towers apartment complex in Cambridge sold last month and will be converted to condos, and several high-end condominium and mixed-use developments are poised to break ground.
Tracy Campion, senior vice president for R.M. Bradley & Co., said that -- other than being somewhat isolated for pedestrians -- the Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel would make a good residential building.
"The size of the units, where they're all broken up, is good," said Campion. "That's what's selling right now. You've got great views. Views sell."
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