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Goodwin May Be Next For Makeover

Renovation Contingent On Favorable Contract With Union, New Owner Says

January 6, 2006

The historic Goodwin hotel in downtown Hartford could be the next city hotel to get a multimillion-dollar facelift.

Northland Investment Corp., the hotel's new owner, hopes to spend between $5 million and $10 million on a "complete overhaul" of the 124-room hotel if it can favorably negotiate a contract with its unionized workers, whose contract expires Sept. 1.

Lawrence Gottesdiener, head of Northland Investment, announced the plans Thursday to members of the local business community during a keynote speech at an economic summit at the Connecticut Convention Center.

"We have in mind a complete overhaul of the hotel," Gottesdiener said in an interview after the speech. "All of the rooms, everything you touch, from soup to nuts, all of the common areas."

He added: "It's a beautiful building, it's a great location, the historic facade is unprecedented. It can and will be Connecticut's finest hotel."

Northland, downtown Hartford's largest landlord, is building the 36-story apartment tower across the street from the Goodwin and last week floated plans to build a new sports arena in the city. Northland purchased the Goodwin hotel and office building last summer for $41 million.

The renovations could become the latest in a series of hotel makeover projects - large and small - throughout the city's central business district in the past two years. The largest was the $33 million, top-to-bottom makeover of the 392-room Hilton on Trumbull Street, completed last March.

The 350-room Crowne Plaza on Morgan Street is in the midst of $4 million in refurbishing, including lobby renovations, new carpeting and a complete makeover of all guestroom bathrooms. Work also continues to convert the old Bond Hotel on Asylum Street into a Homewood Suites.

Gottesdiener wouldn't comment Thursday on what he would consider favorable terms for the new contract. The 85 unionized workers at the Goodwin are working under a two-year contract. Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement haven't begun.

"We're just saying that, if we're going to turn this into a true four-star hotel, we need to have an acceptable [cost and service] structure," Gottesdiener said. "And if we get that, we will turn it into Connecticut's finest hotel."

The hotel worker union, UNITE HERE!, couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday.

If Northland spends between $5 million and $10 million on the Goodwin, it would be a "very major" investment, said Suzanne Hopgood, president of the Hopgood Group, a hotel consulting firm.

Hopgood said that would break down to between $40,000 and $80,000 a room. Renovations are gauged by dollars spent per room, even though common areas, such as lobbies and conference rooms, are typically included. That's because rooms provide the major source of revenue for a hotel, Hopgood said.

What Northland might invest compares with $5,000 per room for a typical "cosmetic renovation" to $200,000 a room at the new Marriott Downtown at Adriaen's Landing, Hopgood said.

"What they are talking about is a big number," Hopgood said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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