Although the Alexandria Planning Commission approved the project last April, Kimpton Hotels, based in San Francisco, Calif., issued a news release last week announcing its 107 room hotel now under construction at 1600 King St. However, as they noted in the release, it remains unnamed.
A joint venture between Kimpton and Boston-based DSF Group, the boutique luxury hotel is estimated to cost $50 million. It will feature a 4,000 square foot destination spa with five private treatment rooms plus an upscale restaurant, as well as a wine bar with casual dining.
The latter will be housed in the historic brick structure that faces King Street at the site and is being preserved by the developer. It was the center of controversy by preservationists a couple of years ago when demolition began at the proposed condominium site.
Of the 107 rooms, 20 will be suites, some offering 700 square feet of outdoor terrace space. "Two of the suites will be presidential style located on the penthouse floor," according to the release. There will also be 3,000 square feet of meeting space.
What the release did not mention was the one feature that caused the greatest amount of controversy during April's Planning Commission session. In changing the original intent of the site from a condominium structure to a hotel, Kimpton/DSF sought approval for valet parking with guests unloading on King Street.
"A fundamental question with this proposal is whether valet parking is appropriate," staff wrote in their report to the Commission at that time. The primary concern is that this activity will only exacerbate an already vehicle congested King Street.
"Valet parking here is not going to help us. You are taking away three King Street parking spaces which will encourage people to park in the surrounding neighborhoods," said Townsend A. Van Fleet, president, Old Town Civic Association, at the time of the proposal's public hearing.
There was also opposition to a hotel at that location in general. "I don't think another expensive hotel is best for this part of the city," said James Melton.
Trey Hanbury, president, Upper King Street Civic Association, maintained that "Kimpton Hotels has not made any contribution back to the community," during his testimony before the Commission. However, as noted later during the hearing, Kimpton/DSF is maintaining their $175,456 contribution to the city's Affordable Housing Fund that was made when the property was to be a condominium building.
Originally, the property was approved by the Commission for a 65-unit residential condominium until the bottom dropped out of that market. The proposal to change the original concept to a luxury hotel also calls for the outward appearance of the building to remain the same as planned for condominiums.
However, internally, it will house, in addition to the 107 hotel rooms, spa and treatment rooms, restaurants and wine bar, 2,914 square feet of ground floor retail space. There will also be a reduction in loading space at the rear of the property.
In the final analysis the Commission approved the overall plan including the valet parking but insisted that the latter be offered as a free service so that restaurant and retail patrons would not use other King Street and neighborhood parking to avoid the cost. Hotel guests would pay for the valet service as part of their overnight parking charge. All vehicles will be taken by the valets to the 75 space, underground garage portion of the hotel now under construction.
DSF/Long will remain the developer and owner of the property while Kimpton Hotels will maintain a management contract to operate the hotel on a daily basis. Kimpton presently has 140 plus properties throughout the nation. Seven of those are in the District of Columbia.
This new venture will bring Kimpton's involvement in Alexandria to three properties. The other two are the Morrison House on North Alfred Street and the former Holiday Inn Select at 480 King St. The latter will be renamed the Hotel Monaco upon completion of extensive renovations.