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Kimpton Plans to Renovate and Convert Portland's
 Fifth Avenue Suites to Hotel Monaco
By Jonathan Brinckman, The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Dec. 2, 2006 - Travelers who demand the finest hotel experience -- including lighted vanity mirrors and a service staff catering to every need -- will have a place to stay in Portland next year, after the Fifth Avenue Suites completes a renovation aimed at making the hotel Oregon's first with a Mobil four-star rating.

San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a privately-held company that bought the hotel 10 years ago, is set to announce next week the renovation and a new nationally-branded name: Hotel Monaco Portland.

The improvements, already under way, will cost $4 million to $6 million and are scheduled to be complete by March 8, said Craig Thompson, manager of Fifth Avenue Suites at 406 S.W. Washington St.

"We were always a second-tier market; now the market in Portland is becoming first tier," Thompson said. "We've analyzed the market, analyzed the city of Portland, and recognize the need. We want to step up to that status."

The announcement comes as the level of hotel accommodation in Portland is rising, said Ed Dundon, a Portland-based hotel broker. The former Imperial Hotel on Southwest Broadway is now the Hotel Lucia; the Hotel Mallory on Southwest 15th Avenue is now the Hotel deLuxe; and Sage Hospitality Resources is constructing The Nines in the former Meier & Frank next to Pioneer Courthouse Square.

"This is a very smart move for Kimpton," Dundon said. "They are reacting to the market."

The only Mobil four-star hotel in the Northwest is the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, where the room rate -- which includes breakfast -- is $429 a night to $499 a night. Fifth Avenue Suites now charges $209 a night for a king suite, not including breakfast. Thompson said he does not expect rates will change significantly after the renovation.

Portland's tourism industry leaders say they're excited about the development. Deborah Wakefield, director of communications for the Portland Oregon Visitors Association, said having a fancier hotel in town will lure "increasingly sophisticated" travelers.

"To have a four-star Mobil property in Portland will put us on the map as a luxury destination," Wakefield said. "When people think of Portland, and Oregon, they think of us as casual and laid back. But it's not all hiking and biking and brewpubs."

Each of Hotel Monaco Portland's 221 guest rooms will be restyled and furnished with DVD players, flat-panel plasma TVs, high-speed wireless and hard-wired Internet service and lighted cosmetic mirrors. Nightly turndown service -- now available at the Fifth Avenue Suites by request -- will be standard.

The Red Star Tavern and Roast House, the hotel's ground-floor restaurant, will be not be changed by the renovation, Thompson said. Neither will the 10-story registered historic building, built in 1912 and once home to department store Lipman Wolfe & Co. Kimpton hired Beverly Hills-based hospitality designer Cheryl Rowley to lead the redesign. The design theme was inspired by Portland's public gardens, Thompson said. The result, according to a Kimpton Hotels release, will be "dramatic palettes of periwinkle, espresso and rich pink coupled with canopied chairs, decorative pieces and subtle garden references."

The four-star rating will not be automatic, Thompson said. Mobil Travel Guide. based in Lincolnwood, Ill., has given 37 hotels in the nation five-star ratings and 108 four-star ratings. The company's Web site says; "Mobil Travel Guide Inspectors evaluate several hundred objective hotel criteria, including housekeeping, room service, hospitality and lodging amenities." Specific amenities, including a safe in every room, are required for a four-star rating, Thompson said.

"We're doing everything physically we need, but it will depend on how the inspection goes," Thompson said. "We're kind of rolling the dice. If the inspector has a great stay and everything is good, then we'll achieve the four-star rating. I think we have good shot at it."

Kimpton, which owns the Hotel Vintage Plaza in Portland, has 40 hotels nationwide including Hotel Monacos in Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago and Washington, D.C. A Hotel Monaco Alexandria in Virginia is set to open in late spring of 2007.


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