Culture / Travel

Houston Pushes to Become a World Class Hotel City — Ambitious New Wave of Projects is Changing Perceptions

Get Ready for a New $454 Million Showcase Center, Tiny Luxuries and a Land Where Women Rule

BY

Houston’s standing as a world-class city is never in doubt — unless you happen to be a visitor staying in one of its unremarkable hotels. For the fourth largest city in America, Houston still comes up short in standout hotels.

The $350 million Post Oak’s opening represented a huge step forward and completely obliterated the city’s previous luxury standards, but one show palace hotel cannot change everything without reinforcements.

Now, a new wave of distinctive hotels, ambitious spots that abhor the old cookie cutter ways, is coming. These include a complete reimaging of a 40-year-old hotel that never captured anyone’s imagination, a micro boutique hotel in the heart of Montrose, and a spot that will let you live in one of Houston’s most ambitious new developments year round.

Houston’s suddenly becoming a much more interesting place to stay.

A Women’s World

Houston’s new C. Baldwin Hotel — a complete reimagining of the old DoubleTree hotel at the Allen Center — is emerging as a butterfly with gold wings. The metamorphosis is built around the finer things in life, which means an ambitious new restaurant from San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino, a new Sloan/Hall store just off the main lobby, and a 1,300-square-foot Paloma salon.

The Bayou City’s downtown hotel scene is suddenly getting much more sophisticated — and in many ways, finding a lighter touch. The transformation of a 40-year-old Doubletree that never struck anyone as distinctive (or good) includes a living green wall along the entry drive and a light-filled lobby that features a bar that looks like it’d be at home in a California spa.

SHOP

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The hotel, which is now under the Curio Collection by Hilton umbrella, is named for the woman considered the true mother of Houston — Charlotte Baldwin Allen, a 19th-century entrepreneur who helped shape the city.

The C. Baldwin celebrates women with a refreshing fervor. Forget the Mother of Dragons; this is the Mother of Houston hotels.

Much of the C. Baldwin hotel’s biggest influencers are female — including general manager Maggie Rosa, interior designer Lauren Rottet, restaurant and bar designer Kate Rohrer and Brookfield Properties vice president Jennifer Rutkowski. Photographs of remarkable everyday Houston women from photographer Elizabeth Conley are highlighted throughout the hotel.

“This is a project that I wanted to be a part of,” Rosa says. “It’s not just a hotel revamp. There’s something inspirational about it.”

C. Baldwin Hotel women
C. Baldwin Hotel brings a powerful team of women and a more feminine touch.

The new Sloan/Hall will be a tightly edited version of the flagship store, with a rotating mix of small gifts, jewelry, shoes, clothes and more, packed into a 600-square-foot space.

“We’ve never been in this type of high-traffic space,” Sloan/Hall co-owner Shannon Hall tells PaperCity. “We’re looking forward to it. We always wanted to have a little shop in a hotel.”

Cosentino’s new restaurant, Rosalie Italian Soul, is named after the restaurateur’s great-grandmother, and it aims to recreate the feel of the red-sauce dishes that the first-generation Italian immigrant taught Cosentino to fuel his love of cooking. The former Top Chef Masters winner describes it as his most personal restaurant yet.

The new Paloma is the third Houston salon from owner Maryam Naderi, who believes that nontoxic nail treatments should be affordable. She easily mixed with the new hotel’s women leadership team at a recent preview night.

Brookfield Properties, which is also behind the nearby Allen Center revamp, acquired the hotel in 2016 and set out to make it memorable. There are not many hotels in the world with a shop like Sloan/Hall in the lobby. Sloan/Hall also fits with C. Baldwin’s mission to be a more women-orientated luxury hotel.

“It’s a different type of a hotel,” Hall says. “And I like that.”

If Tilman Fertitta’s Post Oak Hotel is the brawny, bold, towering attention-grabber in the Galleria area, C. Baldwin aims to be a more serene, reserved beacon downtown.

She is here. Hear her roar. Or at least, relax. Chris Baldwin

Tiny Luxury

The Montrose Hotel will bring a little piece — a very, very little piece — of luxury to the heart of Houston’s hippest neighborhood. The micro boutique hotel is the brainchild of Goodnight Hospitality, the force behind Goodnight Charlie’s honky-tonk, home-goods hideaway Biscuit Home, and the soon-to-open Montrose eateries Rosie Cannonball, March,and Montrose Cheese & Wine Shop.

For the hotel, Goodnight is teaming with Houston-based architecture firm HR Design Dept, headed up by Heather Rowell and Eric Hughes, who were both involved in Goodnight Charlie’s architectural team. The new project is a nod to the booming trend of petite hotels with 10 rooms or fewer that are popping to the top of the world’s best hotel lists.

the montrose hotel goodnight hospitality
Luxe micro-boutique The Montrose Hotel is scheduled to open on Dunlavy and Westheimer in late 2020.

The bite-sized bed-and-breakfast is scheduled to open in late 2020, just a block away from Goodnight’s existing concepts at 2509 Dunlavy. Bailey McCarthy of Biscuit Home, who is designing the space, describes the Lilliputian lodging as “mid-century with a twist.”

Nine exclusive guest rooms will be privy to a wealth of amenities, including a patio with fountain, rooftop garden, and a small lounge/bar/restaurant reserved for hotel guests that will also host private events for up to 50 people. Goodnight Hospitality’s culinary and beverage team, including chef Felipe Riccio and Master Sommeliers David Keck and June Rodil, will curate all the food and drinks for the property.

Goodnight Hospitality partner Peter McCarthy is particularly excited about guests getting to experience the type of ambitious food not offered in bigger chain hotels.

Wondering what impact such a small space will have on your wallet? Nightly rates will range from $350 to $500. How’s that for an infinitesimal inn? Annie Gallay

The New Hotbed

Houston’s Thompson Hotel will reward patience. This new boutique hotel, which was first teased in 2017, will not open until 2022 at the earliest. Thompson by Hyatt is playing the long game, betting that The Allen, a new five-tower, mixed-use development that will rise up along Allen Parkway halfway between River Oaks and downtown, will be a game changer.

Thompson Hotels are known for incorporating touches from the city into their hotels. Thompson Seattle includes nods to the aerospace industry (even in the shape of its headboards).

Another Thompson feature is having a residential component. The Houston Thompson will bring 170 hotel rooms and approximately 95 condos. You can stay at the Thompson — or live there full time, with access to all the hotel’s amenities.

That will include an on-site restaurant run by a local chef, another one of the Thompson mantras is tapping an established chef in the city to give its hotels more of an authentic flavor.

Being in The Allen — a $454 million, six-acre complex next to the distinctive Federal Reserve Bank building and right across from Buffalo Bayou Park — will give Thompson Houston guests something of a playground right outside the hotel’s front doors. Shops, more restaurants, a residential high-rise and 250,000 square feet of Class A office space will also be built.

Hyatt plans to open two other new Thompson hotels in Texas (one in Dallas in the iconic former First National Bank tower and one in San Antonio in a prime River Walk locale) before The Allen’s construction is far enough along for Thompson Houston’s build to begin.

Some things are worth waiting for — especially when you’re trying to change a city’s hotel culture. Chris Baldwin

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