Luxury drops anchor Hotel: The Harbor Inn Pier 5, a hotel for the affluent, opened this week in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

October 11, 1997|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,SUN STAFF

After repeated delays, the Harbor Inn Pier 5 opened this week with the hope of transforming a multimillion-dollar failure into a successful, upscale inn.

With a $12 million renovation nearly complete, the interior of the three-story, waterfront hotel southeast of the National Aquarium bears little resemblance to the failed Harrison's Inn at Pier 5.

Gone are the nautical theme and the replica of a skipjack in the center of the atrium. Beneath the translucent roof topping the three-story atrium, guests will step into a distinctive, art-deco lobby with custom-made furniture; walls covered with textured paint in shades of mahogany, purple and blue; huge lighting fixtures resembling inverted canopies; and a mural surrounding the hotel depicting Baltimore scenes.

The theme continues in the hotel's restaurants and guest rooms featuring king-size beds, ultra-modern furnishings, purple walls with black trim, and 27-inch TVs.

The hotel's operators say the distinctive "boutique" hotel design -- along with niceties such as complimentary limousine service to the business district, 24-hour room service and concierge, a well-stocked library, marble bathrooms, and bathrobes -- will make the hotel a prime destination for those seeking luxury accommodations.

"We're offering luxury and attention to detail that no other hotel in the city offers," said Richard W. Swentzel, vice president of Oceanic Hotels, the inn's management company. "We're not going to be just the boxy, normal hotel."

With rooms starting at about $200 a night and running as high as $1,500 for the presidential suite, the hotel is targeting the affluent, with an emphasis on corporate travelers, said Dawn Puliti, sales and marketing director.

Swentzel, who is acting general manger, said he expects occupancy rates at the 65-room hotel to run between 80 percent and 90 percent, which would be very healthy by industry standards.

The hotel, which employs 88 people, has completed 50 of the guest rooms, and about 10 were occupied this week, as renovations continued, Swentzel said.

Reflecting the boom in urban entertainment and retail in XTC Baltimore and elsewhere, the inn will include three restaurants, a nightclub and a cigar bar.

The first of these establishments, the Dish Cafe, is to open this weekend and eventually remain open around-the-clock.

By November, the other restaurants and bars are scheduled to open: Lenny's Chop House, run by Polo Grill owner Lenny Kaplan; McCormick and Schmick's, an upscale seafood chain restaurant; Cobalt Lounge, a nightclub overlooking the harbor; and Cohibar, a second-floor cigar lounge.

While the hotel includes no pool or health club, guests will be allowed to use the pool and exercise equipment at the HarborView towers on Key Highway, Swentzel said.

The renovation had originally been scheduled for completion in early 1996, after a group of investors led by developer Otis Warren took over the former Harrison's Inn at Pier 5 in June 1995.

Since then, at least two general managers, an architect and a series of contractors have come and gone, and the price tag for a renovation originally pegged at $3 million quadrupled.

Michael Lasky, who made a fortune creating TV "infomercials" and a psychic telephone advice line, joined the investment group last year and heads it.

Harrison's had opened in June 1989 under management of Clarion Hotels and Resorts.

The subsidized hotel's failure cost the city $5.2 million, and the city forgave another $6.2 million in property taxes and federal loans funneled through the city.

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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