With the closing of the Goodwin Hotel looming, city and union officials are scrambling to find a new operator for downtown Hartford's only boutique hotel and said they have already talked to four companies that might be willing to consider the possibility.
Mayor Eddie A. Perez wouldn't disclose names Wednesday, noting that discussions were preliminary. But Perez said Northland Investment Corp. now needs to provide more details about how it would transition management of the hotel to a new operator.
The mayor said he has spoken to two of the four companies. "They know me, and they know Hartford," he said without providing any other details.
Union officials at Local 217 of UNITE HERE couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, and a spokesman for Northland declined to comment.
When Northland announced last week that it would close the Goodwin at the end of the year, it said it was willing to lease the hotel to the union for $1 a year.
At stake are 100 jobs — 70 represented by the union — and the loss of a hotel. With its distinctive 19th century terra cotta facade, the building has been a selling point for the city.
Any new operator would arrive at a difficult time for the hotel industry. Businesses are slashing travel budgets as the economy worsens, and leisure travelers are increasingly staying home. In the Hartford area, hotels began feeling the pinch at the end of the summer as occupancy began falling. Financing for new development projects is difficult to come by.
When Northland, downtown Hartford's largest landowner, announced it would close the Goodwin it said it had lost more than $6 million since it took over the hotel in 2005.
Len Wolman, whose Waterford Group operates the Marriott Hartford Downtown, the Hilton and the Residence Inn in downtown Hartford, said Wednesday that Waterford isn't interested in taking on the project.
"We don't have any interest at this time," Wolman said. "It is very difficult to predict where the economy is headed. Clearly, we are in very trying economic times."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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