Choice Hotels International Inc. plans to make Philadelphia a showcase for its growing Cambria Hotels & Suites brand, as the sprawling hospitality operator pushes the chic yet value-oriented chain into more city centers.
The 14-story hotel being developed at Broad and Locust Streets will be one of two flagships for the Cambria brand, along with a property at New York's Times Square, Choice chief executive officer Steve Joyce said Wednesday at a ceremony marking the start of work on the Philadelphia project.
The Rockville, Md.-based company is calculating that the prominent Center City location - within the Avenue of the Arts cultural district just south of City Hall - will give the brand a boost by exposing it to business travelers and tourists visiting the city, Joyce said.
"This is at the center of things," he said. "Philadelphia is a major corporate center, and we want those corporations to know our product."
The Cambria brand was conceived in 2005 with a focus on smaller U.S. cities but has since been reimagined as a line of trendy urban hotels to help the company expand its big-city footprint, Joyce said.
Currently, 25 Cambria hotels are in operation, with an additional 30 under development in the United States and Canada. They join a total of 6,400 hotels franchised by Choice, whose other brands include Comfort Inn and Econo Lodge.
The Cambria rollout comes amid a spread of so-called limited-service hotels - properties without amenities such as banquet facilities and room service - in city centers, where full-service offerings have traditionally dominated, said Andrew Benioff, a hotel specialist at Llenrock Group, a real estate finance firm in Philadelphia.
Hotel guests are opting for relatively spartan stays at places that compare to Cambria, such as Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Marriott, as they grow increasingly wary of spending extra for services they can seek out on their own, Benioff said.
"A lot of people are becoming more self-service-oriented," he said. "More of a bring-your-own, do-it-yourself kind of thing."
Choice is partnering with the local developer Pearl Properties on the 222-room Cambria hotel, set to open in 2017.
Pearl will maintain ownership of the property, with Choice serving as operator through a franchise agreement, said Reed Slogoff, a Pearl partner.
Plans also call for a restaurant - to be operated independently of the hotel - on the property's ground floor, with another eatery taking over an adjacent building that Pearl also is redeveloping. Talks are underway with potential restaurant tenants, Slogoff said.
The project is among a cluster of hotels in the works on or near Broad Street in Center City, an area already dense with hospitality options.
The new developments include a 755-room hotel - shared by the W Hotel and Element by Westin chains - being built on Chestnut Street, and the conversion of the former Liberty Title & Trust building at Arch Street into a 179-room Aloft Hotel.
Slogoff said the new Cambria would compete by offering newly built, nicely appointed rooms at rates not much higher than those of existing midmarket options.
"We'll be brand new, but competing with older product, or with upscale product at a better price," he said.