Earlier this year, New Hampshire’s capital city got a new hotel as part of a unique mixed-use development. The Hotel Concord takes up several floors of the Capital Commons building, and through savvy partnerships is offering a boutique full-service experience at a select-service price.
Several years back, Michael Simchik, the developer of this office building, wanted to change the mix of tenants in his office building. “He had thought about converting some of the floors that were vacated by office tenants for hotel use,” said David Shamoian, president/CEO of Bravo Zulu hospitality, the property’s management company. As the former president of the Memphis-based Peabody Hotel Group and a founding partner of Boston’s Distinctive Hospitality Group, Shamoian had experience in finding ideal locations for hotels.
After conducting a feasibility study on the idea, Simchik contacted Shamoian to see what kind of hotel they could develop in the middle of an office complex. Working together, the team developed a 38-room boutique hotel on the first, fourth and sixth floors of the building, with a three-screen arthouse movie theater, a restaurant, a gym—and dozens of office tenants surrounding them. The top-floor rooms opened in January following the hotel’s official opening of the ground-floor lobby and fourth-floor rooms in August 2018.
New Hampshire Aesthetic
“We wanted it to be authentic New Hampshire,” Shamoian said of the property's look. To celebrate the political significance of the capital city and the first state to hold a primary during presidential election years, the hotel displays historical photos of presidential primaries going back to the 1940s, and all of the politicians who campaigned in the city. “It provides a civics lesson to people who stay in the hotel,” said Shamoian. Beyond New Hampshire, the team wanted the property’s aesthetic to reflect the overall style and energy of New England, with dining tables made from Vermont maple wood.
Each room is a different shape and size, but all have next-gen tech perks such as Amazon Echo Dots. “It’s something many millennials are used to using,” said Shamoian. “If a customer wants to know the temperature outside or set a wake-up call or needs towels or service, they can ask Alexa and a message will be sent to the front desk.” While a few privacy-concerned guests have unplugged the units or asked to have them removed from the guestrooms, he said, most guests have “embraced” the technology and use it regularly.
These kinds of perks, he acknowledged, target the property for younger business travelers, but the team also wanted to bring families in. To that end, many of the rooms are connected so that groups can book a variety of spaces according to their needs. “If someone needs a two-, three-, four-room configuration, we can do that,” he said. “Some of those have entry foyers as well. Families love that.” Beyond families, he noted, these configurations likely will prove popular with political candidates during election season. “They will be traveling with an entourage,” he noted.
Merits of Mixed-Use
Having so many different types of businesses in a single structure can be challenging in terms of logistics, but Shamoian sees many more pros than cons. The property officially is limited-service, but partnerships with the surrounding businesses provide many of the elements guests would expect in a full-service hotel. For example, the building’s restaurant, O Steaks and Seafood, is open to the public for lunch and dinner but serves breakfast for the hotel’s guests and even offers roomservice. “We have a beautiful fitness center, a bar, a restaurant, roomservice, attached complimentary covered parking—all the things you would expect in a full-service hotel,” he said. However, Bravo Zulu only operates the guestrooms and the gym, which makes the project far more profitable. While Shamoian was reluctant to share any specific numbers given the property’s recent opening, he said that early indications suggest that the property will have the return on investment of a rooms-only operation without the expenses of a full-service hotel—“similar to what Kimpton does,” he said.
Unlike a Kimpton, however, the Hotel Concord is remaining unbranded for now. The property was built, said Shamoian, to upscale standards, and the team is open to taking on a brand if that would improve business. “The initial indications are that we will be fine as an independent hotel,” he said, noting that Bravo Zulu has been using online travel agencies to supplement the team’s local sales efforts in filling the property. “It’s been good so far,” he said. “While we obviously over time want to direct more people to our website, as do all the brands, there’s a place for OTAs with independent properties.”
The hotel was added to the Capital Commons building while other tenants were still using, which required some special consideration from the development and construction team— “especially during the point when we were core-drilling floors for bathroom piping,” said Shamoian. Still, he added, the tenants were largely excited about the addition of a hotel to the structure. “While they had to go through some pain for short time, it was worth it to them because the convenience of having a hotel in office building is a great benefit.” Plans to open up breakfast facilities for the tenants are underway, as are plans to open up the hotel’s fitness space.
“Another challenge has been that so many customers are used to the brands and collecting points,” Shamoian acknowledged. “We’re focused on guest recognition.” While building guest dedication through service rather than points takes significantly longer than traditional loyalty programs, Shamoian believes that the hotel can compete against bigger brands—and their platforms—in the city.