|By Suzette Parmley, The Philadelphia
InquirerMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Oct. 20, 2010 --Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants of San
Francisco plans a second outpost in Philadelphia: a Monaco hotel at the
historic Lafayette Building at Fifth and Chestnut Streets.
The company, which opened the 230-room Palomar at 17th and Sansom
Streets last October, proposes a 270-room hotel, an upscale restaurant
at the ground floor's southwest corner, a ballroom, and 12,000 square
feet of meeting space in the venerable office building, which was
vacant for years.
"We love the city, with the amount of tourism and history here,"
Kimpton president and chief operating officer Niki Leondakis said
Tuesday during an interview at Square 1682, the restaurant attached to
The signature Monaco design includes brightly colored, whimsical,
high-energy spaces inspired by the world traveler, Leondakis said: A
Monaco hotel resembles a traveler's living room, with all the stuff
he's collected traipsing all over the world.
She was in town to announce that the Palomar had just been awarded gold
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by
the U.S. Green Building Council for 80 environmentally conscious
practices, including water and energy conservation and recycling.
It doesn't hurt that the Palomar also has exceeded company expectations
revenue-wise since its debut last year.
"Certainly, the performance of the Palomar helped us with the decision"
to build a second hotel here, Leondakis said. "But we've been looking
in this market for several years."
Since 2007, she said, Kimpton has had its eye on the Lafayette Building
because of its ideal location just across from Independence Hall and
because it was another historic building that could easily be converted
into a hotel - an adaptive reuse that has become eco-friendly Kimpton's
Timing was a factor, too, Leondakis said, with the March opening of the
Convention Center's expansion expected to draw a slew of new
conventioneers to the city.
Kimpton owns 51 luxury boutique hotels across the country and is flush
with cash to make new investments. It purchased the Lafayette Building
for $11.5 million from the Northern Group and closed on the deal last
The Northern Group of New York sold another piece of property, the
historic Architects Building at 117 S. 17th St., to Kimpton three years
ago for $22 million. That building became the Palomar.
The company presented its plans for the 195,000-square-foot Lafayette
Building to the Old City Civic Association Aug. 31, according to the
Philadelphia "works really well as a feeder market for our other East
Coast hotels," Leondakis said. Kimpton began an East Coast invasion 11
years ago and already has multiple sites in New York, Washington, and
Last year, it turned the 1904 B&O Railroad building in downtown
Baltimore into a Monaco. Other Monaco hotel locations include
Washington, San Francisco, and Chicago.
For the hotel business, "the East Coast is rebounding nicely,"
Leondakis said, "more quickly than other parts of the country."
The planned Monaco here is scheduled to debut in the third quarter of
2012. It will compete directly with the high-end Omni Hotel at Fourth
and Chestnut Streets for conventioneers, leisure travelers, and
individual business travelers.
Leondakis said construction would begin in the spring. The Monaco is
the only new hotel going up in Center City, primarily because of a
tight lending environment.
Ed Grose, of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said Kimpton
has "a proven track record of turning historic buildings into beautiful
"It will also be the closest hotel to Independence Mall, the
Constitution Center, Independence Visitors Center, the Liberty Bell,
and the soon-to-open American Jewish History Museum," he said.
At Tuesday's ceremony honoring the Palomar as the city's first
LEED-certified hotel, Mayor Nutter said the Monaco announcement comes
down to one thing: "Jobs, jobs, jobs."
"This is great news for us in these tough, economic times," he said.
Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or
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