When The Goodwin reopens next week to again welcome hotel guests, the ornate terra cotta facade will remain unchanged, but inside it will be tough to find any sign of the hotel that has been closed since late 2008.
“When I see the facade of this building and what I would expect to see inside, there was a complete disconnect,” Carolyn Maples, a hotel interior designer on the renovation project, said of the hotel’s previous design. “It was dark, dreary when you first came in.”
The renovated 124-room hotel will open for its debut on May 2, and its owners hope it will become a place to see and be seen, particularly the new bar located in space at the corner of Asylum and Haynes streets.
The developers, Randy Salvatore, founder and owner of Stamford-based RMS and his partner, Charles Mallory, chief executive of Greenwich Hospitality, purchased the hotel last year for $5 million — separating its ownership from the adjoining Goodwin Square office tower.
On Monday, during a tour of renovations, Salvatore declined to say how much the partners invested in the renovations. But combined with the acquisition, Salvatore said the price tag was over $10 million.
The Goodwin is the first project for Salvatore and Mallory in Hartford, after partnerships on hotel developments in Fairfield County. Mallory is a partner in the Delamar hotel under construction in West Hartford.
The renovation pays homage to the building’s Victorian-era facade, the only portion remaining of an earlier building that once stood on the same corner.
Gone is the dark wood and brass from the old hotel. Instead, there are spaces and furniture in white, gray and black with a pop of the hotel’s signature blue, a shade or two lighter than the Colt dome.
“So one of the big things we wanted to do was revive architectural integrity and add a bit of brightness and infuse this with a modern twist,” Maples said.
There’s a black marble reception desk that would have been in hotels in the early 1900s. Victorian-era designs adorn bathroom floor tiles. Textured paper on guest room ceilings resemble embossed tin. But those touches are combined with modern lighting and art — some resembling ink blots — to project the contemporary, New York style and feel that will be key to differentiating itself from competitors.
A Struggling Hotel Market
Salvatore said the move into downtown Hartford certainly carries a risk, but he said he believes the city is ready for a hotel like The Goodwin.
As an outsider to Hartford, Salvatore said he sees plenty of potential for a city that has added hundreds of apartments in recent years and will soon see the opening of the University of Connecticut’s new campus at Front Street. And, the city’s new minor league ballpark just opened a couple of weeks ago. Commuter rail linking Hartford to New Haven is expected to begin service next year.
“You just walk around the streets, and you see how much activity there is during the day, maybe not as much at night,” Salvatore said. “But that will come. The trends are all going in the right direction.”
Not all the rooms will be ready by May 2, Salvatore said, but all spaces — including about 6,000 square feet of meeting and conference space — will be ready within three weeks of opening.
Downtown Hartford’s hotel market has struggled since the recession but has made some modest strides in recent years.
According to STR, which tracks hotel occupancy around the country, downtown Hartford hotel occupancy rose from 54 percent in 2012 to 58 percent in 2016. Those levels are still well below the 70 percent occupancy considered healthy for the Hartford market.
As a boutique hotel, Salvatore said The Goodwin will be able to tap into what he considers strong, weekday business travel bookings, especially being connected to Goodwin Square. The Goodwin will have an advantage differentiating itself from branded hotels in the city, such as the Hilton and Marriott, he said.
The weakness in the market comes on the weekends and in leisure travel, but The Goodwin will seek to carve out a niche here as well, Salvatore said.
“So this could attract weekend guests that just want a little urban feel, go to the theater and stay overnight,” Salvatore said.
Salvatore declined to discuss room pricing but said The Goodwin’s rates will be competitive with other downtown hotels. An online check of the Marriott near the convention center showed no availability on May 2, but on the following Saturday, May 6, there were rooms with a king bed for $169 to $179 a night.
On Monday, May 8, the rate at the Marriott was $389 for a room with a double bed.
A Prominent Corner of Hartford
In addition to the hotel, The Goodwin hopes to cultivate a reputation as a local gathering place.
A new restaurant — Harlan Brasserie — with a French-American menu will occupy much of the ground floor. The restaurant and a bar will be run by the owners of two Fairfield County restaurants, one a former chef at Manhattan’s famed Tribeca Grill.
Managing partner Stephen Lewandowski, the former Tribecca Grill chef, resists the label of “upscale” because Harlan Brasserie won’t be the kind of place that requires getting dressed up. And, the restaurant has decided to offer a children’s menu, reversing an earlier decision.
“We want to be intriguing, not intimidating,” Lewandowski said.
On the dinner menu, soups and salads range from $11 for a French onion soup gratinee to $14 for baby beer, arugula and goat cheese salad. The entree menu includes Parisian gnocchi for $23, grilled Long Island duck for $29 and herb crusted rack of lamb for $39.
The renovations have flipped the locations of the restaurant and the bar, named Side Bar, to locate the bar directly at corner of Asylum and Haynes.
“We’d love to have this be the central gathering place for Hartford,” Salvatore said. “It’s on a corner, a prominent corner, so after work you can come here for a drink, have a bite to eat, then maybe you go over to the restaurant for a meal.”