"We have that fresh look," Campus Apartments' chief executive and president David Adelman said last week as he led a tour of the hotel.
Adelman said he requested that the street outside be tree-lined, to "soften up the streetscape." Campus Apartments is paying for the rehab of a church across the street.
"We're trying to set an example here by fixing up our buildings, so others will follow suit," he said.
Campus Apartments has been a fixture in University City since 1958, when it was founded by current chairman Alan Horwitz. It now has 140 properties in Philadelphia, and more than $1.5 billion worth of assets under management in 25 states, serving more than 75 universities as one of the largest privately held student housing companies in the United States.
"This is the accumulation of over 50 years of buying land out here," Adelman, 40, said of his firm's first hotel development. "We feel good about it."
The hotel is the first part of a multiphase redevelopment plan for 4109 Walnut, Adelman said. He envisions building two more 20-story towers on an adjacent lot in the next 10 years.
Homewood Suites' interior design, by Philadelphia-based Floss Barber Inc., is modern and sleek, with flat-screen TVs throughout a lobby done in brown, gold and orange and a "digital concierge" at the elevators. Floor-to-ceiling windows encompass the Lodge, a 98-seat dining area; a fitness room, and a swimming pool.
Joe Alteari, project manager at Floss Barber, said the design was inspired by the wood and brownstone architecture of the neighborhood and "intended to project a sense of homecoming and comfort."
University City's Homewood Suites is one of only 26 in an urban location among the chain's 315 hotels because of the costs and issues associated with building in cities.
Adelman has firsthand knowledge. The project was originally proposed for 40th and Pine Streets on land owned by the University of Pennsylvania, but it was beset with zoning problems. When the recession hit in 2008, financing became another hurdle; the project was moved to the 4100 block of Walnut Street, on land owned by Campus Apartments.
With lending still tight in 2010, the $47 million project required multiple funding sources: a $21.7 million loan from Beneficial Bank; $8.3 million in federal New Market Tax Credits; $7.1 million in private equity from Campus Apartments; $7 million in state grants and loans; a $1.6 million federal Greenworks loan, and a $1 million federal Department of Housing and Urban Development loan.
The $8.3 million in New Market Tax Credits were serviced by Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and The Reinvestment Fund.
"The Hilton Homewood Suites in University City created hundreds of construction and permanent jobs and is perfectly situated to offer essential hotel rooms for the many individuals who travel to West Philadelphia to take advantage of the best educational and medical facilities anywhere in the world," said Mayor Nutter, who is scheduled to be at Wednesday's grand opening. "A strong hospitality sector is crucial for the growth of our city."
All 35 full-time hotel employees are from the area.
"We hired a lot of home folks to learn the business," said general manager Paul DiNapoli. "We hired them for their smile."
For the 136 suites, "we wanted something bright with energy," said Adelman, who handpicked the dark-wood furniture, artwork, bathroom tiling, and light fixtures.
"I asked, 'What would be comfortable for me?' " said Adelman, who travels frequently to check on the company's other properties. "Look, this is our brand and reputation. Labor costs are the same, so why not pick some really good materials?"
He said he checked out 70 light fixtures for the entrance of every room before finally deciding. He opted for porcelain tiles in the lobby instead of hardwood flooring because, he said, it would be very difficult to maintain.
A card key powers the electricity in each room of the hotel, which is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Each suite has a fully equipped kitchen, a desk, sofa bed, and a full-size bed. Cost for weeknights averages $160 to $240, $180 for weekends.
When big groups are in town, including citywide conventions, Adelman plans to work with the 238-room Hilton Inn at Penn at 3600 Sansom St., which is owned by the University of Pennsylvania. Between the two, they add 374 rooms to the market.
Contact Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.