|By Anthony DiGuiseppe, Founder and President, DiGuiseppe Architecture
and Interior Design
Condo-hotels are “hot.” That said, they are complex instruments, part hotel and part residence, and therefore nothing serves a condo-hotel developer better than a well prepared checklist of items to consider as he embarks upon the development process.
Here’s a checklist of items developers should consider, when they are at the preliminary stage of designing and building what they hope will be a successful condo-hotel property.
Item #1 – Focus on the end user.
It may seem obvious to say, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of building a condo-hotel with a specific kind of guest or unit owner in mind. That shapes the fundamentals of the project – the site selection and location of the hotel, nearby attractions, and the physical room features and amenities that will satisfy a particular kind of customer.
For example, is the project located in a resort area that serves primarily a young affluent crowd looking for a weekend getaway – or is it in the midst of an area that caters to families or “empty-nesters” who stay for longer periods of time?
If your target is the former – the young, moneyed “weekender” -, then elaborate kitchens or state of the art laundry facilities might not be as important in your condo hotel as they would be for a vacationing family. At the same time, perhaps the “views are everything” – meaning larger windows and dramatic vistas will help sell units. On the other hand, selling to older couples who will live at the property full time then may mean that common space for recreation or handicapped-accessible bathrooms are critical.
As in any business decision, the architecture and design of a profitable condo-hotel begins with the target customer.
Item # 2 – What Amenities will it Require?
Here the question turns on style as well as décor.
To return to the previous example, if you are developing for a young, urban crowd, then clear lines, open spaces and a look akin to those found in boutique hotels may be called for. That will determine the kind of furniture a condo-hotel owner procures, and how much the designer spends on items such as lighting or curtain fabrics.
FF & E costs are always likely to be higher at a condo-hotel than for other hotel projects, because condo-hotels need to exude a “residential” feel above all else, and there is just more furniture and accessories. And spending on FF & E is a major factor in determining what your upfront budget looks like – and how soon, and significantly, you are likely to recoup your investment.
Item # 3 – What About the Back of the House?
Even as developers focus on the needs of the guest, and even though they must create and incontrovertibly residential feel, they cannot lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, the structure they are building is still a hotel.
That means it must have structural features essential to hotel properties in any location – executive and administrative offices, common laundry and housekeeping facilities, freight elevators located with access to guest rooms and frequently, a pool and exercise room.
A common mistake in the initial planning of a condo-hotel to focus on the “condo” elements but overlook the features necessary to operate a profitable lodging facility – this can be a costly mistake, as it can require rethinking much of a development project, and making new plans and resource allocations once project planning is already well underway.
The building must “act like a condo” - but it must be built to function as a hotel.
Item #4 – Never Forget the Lender
Again it may seem obvious, but it is no exaggeration to say that the architecture/design of a condo-hotel and the financing requirements are two sides of the same coin.
For example, no lender will finance a condo-hotel project unless it meets the requirement of having at least a kitchenette in every unit, and therefore it must read to the underwriters that this is a condominium, in size and features.
And of course, lenders look most favorably upon projects that promise the quickest return on invested capital - if possible, the potential to sell all of most of the condo units before the property ever opens its doors. As I suggested above, the ability to sell, and sell quickly, is directly related to having the kind of physical attributes and amenities that appeal to your target market.
Not thinking through the “lens” of the financing arm can be a critical mistake when planning the development of a condo-hotel project. Avoid it at all costs.
Bringing it all Together
Without a doubt, the condo-hotel boom is in full swing – and there are no signs of a let up. That makes it all the more important for developers to choose their projects wisely, and assemble the best team they can in putting the plans together at the outset.
Integrating the elements of architecture and design into the early stages of planning, can save time and money - and help produce condo-hotel profitability in the shortest possible timeframe.