ING Clarion, the European based insurance firm, has entered Old Town Alexandria in dramatic fashion. It is now the owner of two of the city's prime hotel properties — Holiday Inn Select on King Street and The Morrison House at 116 S. Alfred St.
The latter sale was consummated August 4 by CLPF-Morrison House Venture, L.P., for $14.4 million, according to Bill Moyer, director, Hotel Advisory Group, Donohoe/Corfac International, the group that put together the deal between Peter Greenberg, former owner of The Morrison House, and ING. Both properties will be managed by Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, Inc., based in San Francisco, Calif.
Holiday Inn Select was purchased in February. It will be renamed The Monaco and undergo extensive upgrading. Various aspects have already begun with applications to the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review for alterations to the outside of the multi-story structure.
Conversely, The Morrison House is expected to undergo very little physical change since it is considered "One of the best hotels in the world," by Conde Nast Traveler. A four star, four diamond property, the 45-room boutique hotel was constructed in 1985.
"This is clearly a win-win situation for all parties. The seller was able to achieve his objectives and the buyer was able to purchase a superior quality first class hotel in the highly desirable Historic Old Town Alexandria market," Moyer said.
Kimpton both owns and operates properties in the United States. In Alexandria they will hold the management contract on both local properties. Their Washington, D.C., interests include the Hotel Monaco, 700 F. St., NW, owned by La Salle, and managed by Kimpton.
"I think they will be very successful with the operation of The Morrison House. Their main aim is to make the hotel more efficient and more profitable by operating under the much larger banner of Kimpton Hotels. They were very impressed with the way Peter Greenberg had operated the hotel," Moyer said. "They [Kimpton] should also prove to be a real asset to Alexandria."
MOYER DESCRIBED the deal between Greenberg and ING as something "that Peter felt was very acceptable and allows him to look at other opportunities." When contacted Greenberg stated he would prefer not to discuss his future plans.
"One of the real selling points as far as ING and Kimpton were concerned was the repeat business and faithful following of The Morrison House," Moyer explained. Morrison House has been successful in combining a European elegance with a "hometown" atmosphere epitomized by its Thursday, Friday and Saturday night sing alongs around the grand piano in its Grille room.
Morrison House hotel rooms are both elegantly appointed and technologically functional with computer/internet access in every room. With several dining areas on the main floor guests have their choice of fine dining ambiance or the more relaxed, less formal setting The Grille.
In addition to their array of hotels, Kimpton, founded in 1981 by William Kimpton, not only operates but also owns nearly four dozen restaurants. With The Morrison House they have added a gem to their collection.
"People think of us as a hotel. We are also a great restaurant," said Greenburg during an interview two years ago about his epicurean offerings.
"Our menus stay really inventive. But always within the construct of quality. We only buy what is unique on the market," he said.
In The Grille, Thursday through Saturday nights, is where European elegance and sophistication meets down home America. Here local diners and hotel guests can join in impromptu vocalizing around the piano.
All in all, the alignment of The Morrison House and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants is probably best summed up by a Frank Lloyd Wright quotation printed at the bottom of a Morrison House menu: "Dining is, and always was, a great artistic opportunity."