Radisson flag flies again over old Lord Baltimore

Partnership buys downtown hostelry

May 17, 2001|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

The historic downtown hotel once known as the Lord Baltimore but more recently as a Hilton is now officially a Radisson.

Radisson-Olympus Capital Partners said yesterday that it has completed its acquisition of the 439-room, full-service hotel in Baltimore's central business district for an undisclosed sum.

The partnership, made up of Olympus Real Estate Partners and Carlson Hotels Worldwide, has renamed the hotel the Radisson Plaza Hotel Baltimore Inner Harbor.

It will be managed by the Radisson Corp., a flag owned by Carlson, which is based in Minneapolis.

The new owners plan to upgrade the 1920s-era hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The overhaul will begin after the summer and fall seasons end and be completed in the next 18 months. The upgrades will include amenities to attract corporate travelers.

"Baltimore is a big tourist and a big group destination," said Stephen K. Miller, an executive vice president of Radisson Hotel Worldwide. "We were notified the hotel ownership was looking to sell it, and Baltimore was on our list of areas we wanted to invest in. We were out there letting people know the major areas along the East Coast, the downtown cities, we wanted to be in, and they contacted us through a broker."

Miller noted that the hotel is not on the water, where new hotels have been built and are planned. But because the partnership "got a great price," it can charge room rates that are lower than the harbor-front facilities, he said.

He placed the average room rate at Baltimore waterfront hotels at $170 to $200 a night. The Radisson's rates will average $130 to $150 a night.

Miller said the hotel is within walking distance of the harbor, convention center and other attractions, making the hotel a good bet for the partnership.

The average occupancy among all of downtown hotels - which Miller said was 70 percent to 80 percent - also made the hotel attractive.

Miller said the Radisson's average rate before the purchase was "at the low end" of those percentages.

The hotel is the second for the partnership, which also has purchased a hotel outside Dallas. Miller said Carlson brings the hotel management know-how and Olympus brings the capital.

The partnership plans to continue to seek out hotels to buy and convert, company officials said. They all will be placed under the Radisson and Regent International Hotel brands.

Radisson also will continue to lend its flag to outside owners.

Warren Marr, director of hospitality and leisure consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the move is intended to help Carlson solidify its presence in major urban centers.

Many Radisson hotels are franchises, meaning Radisson does not own them. Radisson is seeking to enter into long-term management agreements that will protect its name brand.

"They'll solidify the brand and elevate the brand standards," Marr said. "And their consumers will be provided with a network; Radisson can give them a place to stay in downtown markets."

The Baltimore hotel, at 20 W. Baltimore St., opened in 1928 and has been upgraded several times. It also has been in bankruptcy twice, partially harmed by that off-the-water location.

The hotel also has undergone several name changes, including a previous stint as a Radisson.

It was called Radisson Plaza, but changed its name in 1997 to Baltimore Hilton & Towers after being bought by Prudential Real Estate Investors and Davidson Hotel Co.

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