Friday, February 12, 2016

Plans for two hotels at 15th & Chestnut taking shape

A rendering of the Element and W Hotels planned for 15th and Chestnut Streets. (Courtesy of Brook Lenfest)
A rendering of the Element and W Hotels planned for 15th and Chestnut Streets. (Courtesy of Brook Lenfest)

Next week, developers will present their designs for the W and Element Hotels planned for 15th and Chestnut streets to the Center City Residents Association. The presentation is for information only: The planned project requires no zoning variances and can be built by right.

According to a description shared with PlanPhilly by an attorney working on the project, the hotels will have a total of 755 rooms. There will be 295 rooms in the four-star W Hotel, and 460 rooms in the three-star, extended-stay Element by Westin. The entire hotel operation will be managed by Starwood, a Connecticut-based hospitality company.

The project will also include more than 1,700 square feet of retail space on the ground floor at the corner of 15th and Chestnut. The developer, Brook Lenfest, is seeking LEED certification for the building. (Brook Lenfest’s father, H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, is owner and publisher of Interstate General Media, which owns The Inquirer, Daily News, and

The site, on the northeast corner of the intersection, jutting up against the back of the Ritz-Carlton Residences, is currently used as a parking lot.

"On the Monopoly board, even on Park Place, only one hotel can be placed on a property," the Center City Residents Association wrote in a newsletter on Friday. "But the developers at 1441 Chestnut, currently a parking lot south of the Condos at the Ritz, must have picked up one of those bonus cards, like the one that reads, 'Your building loan matures - collect $150.'"

Of course it wasn't actually a Monopoly card; it was a tax-incentive package. Last year, City Council approved a $33 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package for the project.

Lenfest said at the time that he couldn’t build the project without the tax incentive, which allows him to keep most of the taxes he would pay on any improvements to the site for the next 20 years. If the project fails to generate the expected tax revenue over the life of the TIF, the developer is on the hook to make up the difference.

There are just over a dozen TIF districts in Philadelphia. Most of them are generating less tax revenue than projected at the time the incentives were approved.

Lenfest told PlanPhilly earlier this summer that the construction will take around three years, and the hotels are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.  is dedicated to covering design, planning and development issues in Philadelphia. The news website is a project of PennPraxis, the clinical arm of the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Wyncote Foundation.

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