Four Seasons movin' on up, but downsizing

The Four Seasons Hotel off Logan Square could be taken over by another high-end hotel chain after the move.
The Four Seasons Hotel off Logan Square could be taken over by another high-end hotel chain after the move. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photograph)
Posted: January 17, 2014

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts plans to close its popular but aging 357-room hotel at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway when it opens a new hotel with approximately 200 rooms atop Comcast Corp.'s new high-rise tower, due to open in 2017.

The switch would maintain the Toronto chain's presence in Philadelphia but would reduce its slice of Philadelphia's increasingly crowded high-end hotel market.

"Until the transition, it is business as usual," Four Seasons spokeswoman Christia Donohue said after Comcast made official its plan to build a 1.5-million-square foot, $1.2 billion corporate center and hotel tower at 1800 Arch St.

The current hotel building's owner, Host Hotels & Resorts of Bethesda, Md., operates hotels of several chains, and might rebrand the Parkway space as a JW Marriott, for example, suggested Ed Grose, head of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association. JW Marriott is one of the higher-priced chains owned by Marriott International, which operates several large Philadelphia-area hotels. Host officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The Four Seasons, whose restaurants and meeting rooms have long been popular with the city's corporate deal-makers, meeting planners, politicians, and professionals, has lately faced competition from Philadelphia-based Hersha Hospitality Management's newly renovated Rittenhouse Hotel, as well as from a group of new hotels built with taxpayer subsidies.

The Four Seasons' room rates here have been lower than those at other Four Seasons hotels, such as in Atlanta and Seattle, reflecting Philadelphia's high supply and relatively low demand.

The new "hotel in the sky" at Comcast will cost more than a half-million dollars per room to build, noted commercial real estate broker Robert Fahey, executive vice president at CBRE Inc. in Philadelphia.

Typically, hotels need to charge $500 a night to make such spending profitable, Fahey said. But corporations that sponsor hotels often fill rooms and support hotel operators in other ways, he added.

Construction and tenant fit-up costs will boost the total expense of the new building to $800 per square foot, up from around $600 for Comcast's 2005 tower next door, according to Liberty Property Trust, which is overseeing the project for Comcast.

Philadelphians have been expecting a Comcast expansion since Liberty bought the building site for $40 million two years ago.

"They are building the prototype for an urban technology campus, 60 stories tall," Fahey added. "It is designed to be exceedingly productive work space for its creators [over many years]. This redefines how Philadelphia will be perceived going forward."


BY THE NUMBERS

357

Rooms in the Four Seasons hotel at its current location.

200

Estimated number of rooms atop the new Comcast building.

$500,000

Minimum estimate of cost to build each room in the new tower.

$500

Per-night charge typically needed to make a profit off rooms in such a project.


JoeD@phillynews.com

215-854-5194 @PhillyJoeD

www.inquirer.com/phillydeals

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