Bruce Bradley, the owner of the Capella Georgetown, one of Washington’s newest luxury hotels, says construction is on schedule, room reservations will begin on November 1, and opening day is set for January 7. His goal for the Capella is ambitious: to beat the luxury brand competition during the important inauguration period and beyond. “This is a business we are very passionate about,” he says. “A lot of people are going to like it a lot; they have been waiting for something like this in Washington. We will definitely be the place to be for the inauguration.”
The boutique-style Capella Georgetown is at 1050 31st Street, adjacent to the C&O Canal, in what used to be an office building. When the renovation is complete, it will have 49 rooms (a quarter of them suites), a restaurant and bar, and a rooftop pool. The room rates are expected to be sky high, and Bradley is not apologetic. His goal is to reach a singularly discriminating and high-end clientele, who aren’t shocked by a $1,000-a-night hotel room. The project is part of Castleton Hotel Partners, which is affiliated with Castleton Holdings, a DC-based company of which Bradley is president and managing partner.
Capella claims to manage “some of the most luxurious hotels in the world,” including the Setai in New York City, the Breidenbacher Hof in Dusseldorf, Germany, and Capellas in Singapore and Cabo San Lucas and Ixtapa, Mexico. Rates today at the New York hotel begin at $785 and climb up to $3,290 for a two-bedroom suite. That’s not too far off from what the posted rates are today at the Georgetown-based Four Seasons Hotel, where the “best available” is $725 for a single room and $2,547.63 for a one-bedroom suite. The Georgetown Ritz-Carlton’s posted rates begin at $599 for a “premier” room and jump to $6,500 for a presidential suite with one bedroom. Both hotels neighbor the Capella.
We spoke with Bradley by phone this morning about his hotel project.
What is Castleton Holdings?
It’s a local real estate development investment company. We’ve been in Washington since 1993. I founded it. I’ve lived here for 28 years. We have focused on commercial office buildings in the metro area. We own a few properties outside the area, but principally we are local. Capella is our 23rd deal.
Is Capella your first hotel?
Yes. We are planning to open others elsewhere in the US and also in Europe.
Why did you decide to get into the hotel business?
I’m a traveler. I enjoy traveling and have enjoyed staying in some of the finer hotels around the world, and that penchant for traveling has made me realize Washington has an incredible deficiency, especially in the luxury end. It was astonishing that this city, the most important city, did not have a world-class hotel to compete with other capitals around the world. We saw this as a tremendous opportunity.
How did you choose the building?
It was offered to us. It had been the headquarters of the American Trial Lawyers Association. When it was first offered, it was a quiet, off-the-market deal. Because my background is in office buildings, and one of our sub-specialties is embassies, I first looked at it as a potential embassy property. As we got more involved, however, it appeared this building would make the perfect upscale boutique hotel.
Was the neighborhood a factor?
Definitely. Georgetown is still the principal hotel market for Washington. It is the only seven-day-a-week market, too. The business traveler stays downtown, but there’s no activity during the weekend, and occupancy drops significantly. In Georgetown that’s not the case.
What did it cost to buy the building, and what is the cost of developing the hotel?
I bought the building for a little more than $18 million, and the project is going to be a little more than $45 million.
How did you get involved with the Capella Hotel Group?
In our research, they embodied a lot of the values we had in our concept. Second, it was the management team run by Horst Schulze. He was one of the founders of Ritz-Carlton and built that chain before they sold to Marriott. He took most of the executive management from Ritz-Carlton with him to form Capella.
What makes this a reasonable time to build a new hotel in Washington?
Washington has been leading in the United States hotel market. We are an anomaly as an economic zone, especially when looking at the recession. We remain much healthier than the rest of the country. The luxury market in DC is very robust, and all indications are that it is actually growing.
What will make the hotel different from other luxury brands, in Georgetown in particular, such as the Four Seasons and the Ritz-Carlton?
Two things. One is the size of the property, which allows us to provide a certain intimacy and security that those hotels can’t provide. Second, and most important, is the service model. With a small hotel, we provide a level of personalized service the others can’t provide.
Will there be banquet business?
No, and we’re not catering to groups.
What will the rates be?
The rates will be high. It will be expensive, but I don’t want to make it sound prohibitive.
There are rumors that rooms will run about $1,000 a night.
I wouldn’t say for all rooms. We will be competitive with the Four Seasons. A lot of Four Seasons’ business now is groups and conventions, at a discount, which has diluted the overall rates. Our focus is the suite- and club-level buyer. We know a lot from our work with embassies. Our focus will be heads of state, VIPs from other countries, some corporate CEOs, and entrepreneurs.
What will the interior look like?
Peter Silling is doing the interiors. He’s a world-class hotel designer based in Hong Kong and Cologne, Germany. The theme is continental, with old-world finishes coupled with very contemporary elements.
Will you have a restaurant?
We will be making announcements in a couple of weeks. We will have a full-service bar and restaurant with private dining and terrace seating along the canal. It’s a very special venue. Our chef is coming from Singapore. He’s Swedish and has trained with a lot of the Michelin-starred chefs in Europe.
We’ve heard there will be a rooftop pool. Will that be for everyone or only hotel guests?
It will be private.
Any outside memberships?
Hmm. That’s not determined yet, but probably not, because our security model is one of discretion.
Do you have a favorite hotel in the world?
Yes: Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole, Italy. Our hotel will have the same kind of environment: small, private, intimate.