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Kimpton’s Debuts $12M Renovation To Nine Zero Hotel

Boston’s recent wave of hotel groundbreakings has centered on the Seaport, but one downtown hotel is doubling down on its historic locale amid a rush of new office tenants and visitor demand. 

The penthouse at the Kimpton Hotel Nine Zero

“The Seaport has drawn in many people and companies, and it can be a little tough to stand out. But what we have with this transformation is something unique,” Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel General Manager Michal Penek said. “We’ve got history, we’ve got convenience, and we’ve got character.”

The Seaport has garnered hotelier interest in recent years at different market segments, ranging from the boutique Envoy Hotel and Yotel properties near Seaport Square to the convention-geared and tentatively named 1,055-room Omni Boston Seaport Hotel that broke ground last week. But Kimpton remains bullish on downtown and is wrapping up Nine Zero’s $12M renovation, which Penek said launched after Brookfield Hotel Properties purchased the hotel in 2016.

“At that point, it had been nine or 10 years since the last refresh,” she said. “Most hotels go through a life cycle where it’s time to provide a nice upgrade. In collaboration with Kimpton, it became a complete transformation of the hotel and a re-emerging and redefining of who we are as modern and smart luxury.”

Thayer Lodging Group, which Brookfield owns, purchased the Nine Zero for $85.1M, or just over $450K per room, in 2016 from San Francisco-based KHP Capital Partners.

Lobby art at the Kimpton Hotel Nine Zero

Kimpton and Brookfield worked with hospitality interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates and Boston-based branding company Korn Design to give the hotel a contemporary feel while still paying homage to its historic spot along the Freedom Trail near Boston Common.

The hotel’s “living room” combines pressed tin ceilings and wooden shutters with Italian cocoon-like chairs by Eric Brand and neon pink lighting. Guests looking for more of an immersive lesson in history than what is provided by the litany of guided tours on the Freedom Trail outside can consult with the Nine Zero’s new in-house historian.

“We may not be a price match to some hotels in the Seaport, but there are a lot of travelers who appreciate a distinct persona and design,” Penek said. 

Room rates have increased after the renovation, but the $200 to $600 per night for a standard room is what Penek called “accessible luxury” compared to pricier options at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel Boston and The Ritz-Carlton Boston. The 190 guest rooms have been refreshed to include leather headboards, an Eames chair and Boston-minded artwork like framed poetry by Oliver Wendell Holmes and paintings of a Boston terrier.

The 1,065 SF penthouse on the 19th floor includes love letters between John and Abigail Adams scripted above the headboard as well as a billiards table, a record player and a telescope to peer out at the Common, Boston Public Garden and Charles River visible from the floor-to-ceiling windows.  

A guest room at the Kimpton Hotel Nine Zero

“This warm and familiar feel with a new bold design, topped off with a location that is second to none, puts us in a great place,” Penek said. 

Downtown has lost several financial and law firms, like PwC and Goodwin, to the Seaport, but the neighborhood has been able to backfill the space with technology firms like CloudHealth Technologies and Bullhorn, which both moved from Fort Point for offices in the 32-story 100 Summer St. tower downtown. Hotel operators have noticed the continued demand and even taken to repurposing older office buildings into boutique hotels.

Oxford Capital Group’s 2015 sale-leaseback of The Godfrey Hotel, a 242-room boutique hotel it developed in an old Downtown Crossing office building, was one of the highest per-room hotel sales in Boston history. The $173.9M deal equated to $718,595 per room, higher than the estimated $125M, or nearly $458K per room, the Taj Boston across from the Boston Public Garden sold for in 2016

While the hotel supply increase to the Seaport led to a 1.2% decline in neighborhood occupancy rates as of September, downtown’s occupancy was up nearly 2%, according to Pinnacle Advisory Group. Rates were up nearly 1% to give the neighborhood an overall revenue per available room increase of 3.3%.

An Eames chair has been installed in every room, including this skyline view room, following the Kimpton Hotel Nine Zero renovation.

“While it was a little sketchy down there 30 years ago, you see a completely different kind of traffic today,” Boston University School of Hospitality Administration marketing professor Leora Lanz said. “Boston is a high-end destination all over the city.”

While she sees the Seaport’s hotel appeal, Lanz views Kimpton’s Nine Zero strategy as what should be expected of any hotelier: do whatever it takes to keep brand loyalists coming back. The continued success of other nearby hotels like XV Beacon and the Omni Parker House prove there is demand for rooms beyond the waterfront. Returning guest interest is sustained by providing something different through building investments as well as special services. 

“It’s always cool to be the latest and greatest, but to renovate and stay fresh in a destination that has already been developed is the real mark of success,” Lanz said.