Yet another would-be hotel is set to rise in what has turned out to be very fertile soil around the messy Gowanus Canal.
Four hotels are being built or are already planned for a six-block area around the old industrial sluice — in addition to the Hotel LeBleu, Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn Express that already receive guests nearby.
“They’re clustering in that area because it’s between the restaurant rows of Smith Street and Fifth Avenue and it’s close to Downtown,” said Carolyn Greer, director of public events, special projects and tourism for Borough President Markowitz.
Greer added that subway service on Fourth Avenue makes it a logical location, too.
The most-recent addition to the mushrooming tourist zone will be a 124-room Fairfield Inn, part of the Marriott chain, slotted for Third Avenue, according to Brownstoner, a real-estate Web site.
The very existence of a “Gowanus Canal Hotel District” is mostly due to the low prices for old industrial land — land on which hotels, unlike other residential units, can be built without costly zoning changes.
On the other hand, the district is still largely industrial, which disorients some tourists who don’t feel connected to the picturesque and thriving brownstone communities to their east and west.
“We got out of the subway and I was wondering if we were in the wrong place, because I have a friend that told me Park Slope was really nice and upscale,” said Mike Powell, staying at the Holiday Inn Express on Union Street between Third and Fourth avenues.
A similar scene played out at Hotel Le Bleu. Its 48 luxurious rooms of high-thread-count linens and flat-screen televisions are on a block of Fourth Avenue shared by a taxi garage, dialysis clinic and a Pep Boys auto parts store and repair center.
“We were sort of surprised when we got here,” said Shelley McCabe, who was in town to visit her parents. “You go up a couple avenues and its so nice up there. Down here, it’s a little bit strip mall-ish.”
That will change, business experts say.
If all the proposed hotels get built, there would be about 700 rooms clinging to the Park Slope side of the canal — up from about 300. This will help trigger entrepreneurs to open places where travelers “can get a bite to eat, pick up the paper and buy your everyday sundry items,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
In spite of the growth on the horizon, innkeepers have ruled out the notion that the market could become glutted, driving down prices.
“It’s competitive, yes, but it’s a draw,” said Robert Gaeta, general manager of the sleek Hotel Le Bleu, who reports that business is “brisk,” with occupancy averaging more than 80 percent in recent weeks.
“The more that open, the more people that come. The competition raises everybody up,” Gaeta said, comparing the hotels to the seemingly boundless number of restaurants that have opened on Fifth Avenue.
That competition has oddly hit an absolute equilibrium in room prices, if only temporarily.
Last week, travelers could check into Le Bleu for $235 a night and the Holiday Inn for $239. Both hotels said prices fluctuate day-to-day and can quickly hit $350 per night.
Developers say Brooklyn is ripe for hotel projects as the borough becomes more of a tourist destination in and of itself, and also, as an affordable option to Manhattan rates.
“It’s the right time to build,” said Raj Bhagai, of New Generation Hospitality, which is planning to raze two warehouses on President Street to make room for a “mid-brand hotel” and one affiliated with the Marriott, itself one of the borough’s great hotel success stories. After opening in 1998, the 376-room inn soon outgrew its capacity and opened a 280-room annex in 2006.
©2008 Community News Group
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