The developer of the historic Cummings building is proposing to turn it into a boutique hotel under the Indigo brand owned by InterContinental Hotels Group.
The Cummings estate has a contract with Washington, D.C.-based real estate powerhouse Carr Hospitality to purchase the property located on South Union St. for development.
The Hotel Indigo would have about 120 rooms if the new plan conforms to the other 38 Indigo hotels around the world.
“The approach would be to integrate it into the community, into the historic fabric,” Hammad Shah, president and CEO of Carr Hospitality, told members of the Waterfront Plan Work Group. The brand “goes into communities and developers sites that are unique to that particular location," he said.
The closest Indigo is under construction in Baltimore, although there are some in London, Paris, New York’s Chelsea district and in San Francisco, among many other places. Sixty other Indigos are “in the pipeline,” according to the hotel chain’s website.
The Alexandria hotel would include a small restaurant with up to about 70 seats. The developers say it could offer tax revenues to the city of about $14 million as well as create 30 jobs.
“The core message is we believe we can develop this boutique hotel within the guidelines of the recommended [Waterfront Plan],” said architect Mark Orling of local architecture firm Rust Orling.
If the hotel idea were not approved, an alternative would be residential development. However, the developers say they prefer the hotel option. Additionally, city planners told the workgroup that residential developments have double the parking impact as hotels because many people take public transportation to a hotel.
Orling compared the proposed upscale Indigo with Upper King Street’s Lorien Hotel, adding that it doesn’t make good business sense to build a hotel with much fewer than 120 rooms.
“You have to have a critical number of rooms to have staff to have adequate service,” he explained.
Additionally, he believed that a small hotel like Morrison House, which has 40 rooms, probably would not be built in today’s market. “Many people think Morrison operates as an individual entity. It doesn’t. Kimpton owns the Lorien, Hotel Monaco and Morrison,” he pointed out. “I don’t think Morrison could be operated by itself today.”
Carr Hospitality lawyer Jonathan Rak also attended the meeting.