News & Politics

Owner Bruce Bradley Talks About the New Capella Georgetown Hotel

His goal: create the top luxury hotel in Washington.

An illustration of the in-development Capella Georgetown. Image courtesy of the hotel.

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.

Photograph of the hotel building by Carol Ross Joynt.

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

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

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.