After 6 years of development, W Philadelphia hotel set to open Friday with plenty of local flavor

W Hotel Philadelphia

W Hotel Philadelphia officially opens this week. (W Hotel Philadelphia)

This story originally appeared on Philadelphia Business Journal.

After more than six years of development, the long-awaited W Philadelphia hotel at 1439 Chestnut St. will open on Friday, rounding out the $280 million dual-branded W/Element project that looks to make a splash in the Center City hotel scene.

The Marriott-branded, 295-room W Philadelphia includes 39 suites that feature floor-to-ceiling windows and city views. Guest rooms are decked out with nods to Philadelphia hallmarks: Illuminated words from the Declaration of Independence are etched in graffiti font on custom light fixtures, the bedspread print on the signature W bed is dubbed “Philly Toile” and outfitted in modern and historical city icons, and a throw pillow features the iconic Love statue on one side and the word “lust” on the other.

W Philadelphia offers six suite categories, each featuring oversized tubs and lush details like Danby marble and Chesterfield-style furnishings. Suites also include private guest balconies, which the hotel says are the only ones offered by a luxury hotel in the city. Artwork was curated under the theme of “Collective Independence,” boasting impressionist and modern pieces inspired by the collections at the Barnes Foundation. W Philadelphia’s crown jewel “Wow” and “Extreme Wow” suites go a step further with custom foosball and billiard tables and in-room DJ booths.

W/Element, developed by Chestlen Development LP, has been in the works since spring 2015. The property was delayed multiple times and was plagued by litigation, including a $30 million lawsuit filed by Chestlen against the site’s general contractor Tutor Perini Building Corp., part of Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp. (NYSE: TPC). In the suit, Chestlen sought hefty monetary damages related to the 51-story downtown skyscraper’s construction.

Within the dual-branded property, guest rooms for the Element, which opened in May at 1441 Chestnut St., primarily span floors nine through 31. W Philadelphia guest rooms take up floors 32 to 49, while floors one through eight are a mix of both brands.

“We’re all ecstatic to finally be getting to the opening date,” General Manager Ed Baten told the Business Journal.

The W Philadelphia is targeting a combination of Philadelphia residents looking to try out the property’s eateries and other facilities, as well as travelers particularly keen on fashion, music, design and wellness, Baten said. The hotel will offer music activations by artists Joshua Lang, who will serve as the property’s resident DJ.

Element rooms fall in the roughly $189 to $259 nightly range, he noted, while W Philadelphia rooms go for about $300 per night up to the mid-$400s. The property has been “pleased” with the occupancy it has experienced since Element’s launch, Baten said, with traffic steadily growing each month driven by leisure travelers.

The property is beginning to see more business travelers mid-week and is anticipating that traffic will grow post-Labor Day as summer vacations taper off and kids return to school, he said. The property is starting to fall in line with typical local occupancy rates, Baten added, and fall convention traffic should provide a further boost.

The Center City hotel market hit 80% occupancy last Saturday, which has not happened since the start of the pandemic, according to Visit Philadelphia, which cited figures from hotel data company STR.

Last month, Center City average hotel occupancy hit 50.7% (up from 28.2% in July 2020), per STR findings. In June, occupancy clocked in at 43.2% (up from 21.3% last year) and in May occupancy reached 37% (up from 17% last year). Weekend occupancy rates are significantly higher than weekday volume, reflecting the city’s strong leisure travel turnout.

Other signature features of W Philadelphia are a public guest space called the “Living Room,” which serves local coffee roasted by Rival Bros. by day and cocktails created by local mixologist Resa Mueller by night. The space is decorated with a wall of hand-painted, custom ceramic skulls that draw inspiration from the Hyrtl Skull Collection at the Mütter Museum and feature references to hip-hop, fashion and garden icons.

Behind the skulls and a two-way mirror is “Stevens’ Prophecy,” a salon with artwork devoted to Philadelphia-born Hollywood icon Grace Kelly. The name reference’s the star’s high school yearbook superlative that predicted she would become “a famous star of stage and screen.” The concept will feature a curated specialty menu including small-batch and limited-run spirits.

The seventh floor of W Philadelphia boasts the Wet Deck, equipped with a heated year-round pool, and the Wet Deck Bar, featuring a large-scale, pixelated floral motif from floor to ceiling. Wet Deck staff will sport uniforms made by local Black-owned sustainable fashion brand Grant BLVD.

Meanwhile, the hotel’s signature dining concept Dolce, an Italian eatery by LDV Hospitality, is anticipated to open its roughly 110-person spot in early September, Baten said.

W Philadelphia also has 45,000 square feet of event space spanning three floors. The space includes 37 meeting rooms meant to feel like private recording studios, a floating chandelier composed of 10,000 gold coins as a nod to Philadelphia’s banking history, and alcove seating located under a grand staircase near a locally produced skull sculpture — another nod to the Mütter Museum.

The property has so far seen steady events business for social events such as weddings, and is looking to capitalize on pent-up business events demand going forward.

“Our event space is some of the only event space from a hotel perspective that is designed and built for its purpose,” Baten said. “A lot of our competitors in the market are … buildings that were not built to be hotels, so their event space may not be as organic as ours.”

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