James Reed Building in Pittsburgh may be converted into upscale hotel


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The James Reed Building Downtown may go from serving the rule of law to offering wake-up calls.

Philadelphia developer PMC Property Group is working with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants to convert the former Pittsburgh headquarters of the Reed Smith law firm into an upscale hotel, perhaps with as many as 250 rooms.

PMC purchased the nine-story Beaux-Arts style building at 435 Sixth Ave. for $5.5 million in a bankruptcy sale last September. The structure has been vacant since the law firm moved into Three PNC Plaza in 2009.

While the developer is best known in Pittsburgh for converting older buildings into apartments, it is considering a different form of housing for the James Reed Building, partnering with San Francisco-based Kimpton on the hotel plans.

In Pittsburgh, PMC and Kimpton apparently are considering creating a Hotel Monaco, one of the chain's most recognizable brands. If all goes well, it could open sometime next year.

PG graphic: Location of proposed upscale hotel
(Click image for larger version)

Louise Giordano, a PMC senior vice president based in Pittsburgh, declined comment on the proposed development.

Tami Von Isakovics, director of restaurant public relations for Kimpton, said the chain does not have anything signed or ready to announce regarding the building at this time.

"It's too premature at this point even to talk about it," she said.

An upscale boutique hotel and restaurant chain, Kimpton has been interested in the site for at least two years. At one point, it tried to reach a deal of its own to buy the building. The hotel being planned there would be the chain's first in the Pittsburgh region.

Kimpton prides itself on customer service. It advertises a yoga mat and free on-demand fitness TV programs in every room.

At many of its hotels, the chain also offers a bit of "guppy love" -- guests can request a goldfish for their rooms to keep them company during their stay. There is no extra charge and the hotel staff makes sure the fish, brought in a bowl or a tank, is cared for and fed. The hotel says research has shown watching colorful fish calms nerves, reduces anxiety and lowers blood pressure.

Kimpton welcomes pets at no extra charge. It even lists the pet's name on arrivals reports and provides treats, food and water bowls, and pet beds upon request.

There are typically complimentary wine hours in the late afternoon at the chain's hotels.

Kimpton has Hotel Monacos in 10 cities, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and Baltimore. The San Francisco one is located in a Beaux-Arts building similar in style to the James Reed Building.

Overall, Kimpton has more than 50 hotels in 24 cities in the United States.

Jeff Higley, vice president of digital media and communications at STR, a hotel benchmarking company, said Kimpton is one of the more respected boutique hotel companies in the industry. It also was one of the first boutique hotel operators in the United States.

"Kimpton was a boutique hotel company before boutique became cool," he said.

Mr. Higley said that Kimpton also takes great pride in pairing quality restaurants with many of its hotel properties, providing separate entrances for local customers to use.

For a city to land a Kimpton hotel, "It certainly signifies that the niche players in the industry have taken notice of a market that has potential," he said.

"If this is true, then this is an important hotel for the city," added Craig Davis, CEO and president of VisitPittsburgh.

Mr. Davis said that if the proposed hotel has as many as 250 rooms, it could be a big selling point for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. "It would be an attractive hotel for potential convention customers," he said.

While local hoteliers rarely like to see additional rooms come into the city, "I think this is a segment of the hotel industry not currently covered in Pittsburgh," said Tim Zugger, general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Pittsburgh Downtown and president of the Greater Pittsburgh Hotel Association.

"Most of the hotels Downtown are part of a chain. This is a small boutique hotel. It is an independent property that has a different feel," he said.

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Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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