Culture / Travel

Houston’s Iconic Hotel Granduca Is Sold With Transwestern Plotting a Major Refresh and Original Visionary Giorgio Borlenghi Still Involved

An Uptown Park Pioneer Takes Steps to Become a Trendsetting Place Again

BY // 01.11.24

The iconic Hotel Granduca, Giorgio Borlenghi’s five-star gift to the city of Houston, has changed hands with a quiet transfer of ownership from the revered developer to Transwestern Hospitality Group (THG). Before the sale was revealed publicly on Thursday afternoon, PaperCity met with the new owners who shared their vision for a subtle transformation and refresh of the property that opened in Uptown Park 17 years ago.

Borlenghi remains a partner in his beloved hotel, joining a number of other prominent Houstonians who are stakeholders in the project, their names not yet released.

THG partners Tyler Lavin and Thomas Duncan, who facilitated the transaction, settled in at Giorgio’s Bar & Table to discuss their plans along with award-winning interior designer Kara Childress, who has been tapped to handle the interior design aspects of Hotel Granduca’s transformation.

All in, this will be a multi-million dollar refresh, according to the new Hotel Granduca team. But do not fret that the Granduca’s European cachet will be lost.

“You’re going to feel Giorgio’s presence in a major way,” Childress assures. She describes the vision as focused on maintaining a venerable Italian flavor but with something of a rich monastery vibe. Meaning the design will not be about clutter but rather a pleasing less is more esthetic.

There are a number of  top tier hotels in Italy that have been luxuriously carved from the stone walls of monasteries. The grand Castel Monastero in the heart of Chianti comes to mind. The point of this Houston project centers around Old World beauty combined with modern functionality.

The posh courtyard at Hotel Granduca
The posh courtyard at Hotel Granduca

While a few things, such as menus, will be changing quickly, Duncan says that the major re-haul of the ground floor will take until the end of the year to complete. Renderings are expected to be available in a few months.

Reimagining the 3.5-acre property includes esthetic improvements to the palm lined pool terrace and the transformation of the formal Ristorante Alba. Plans are to expand the intimate boite into the parking lot, adjust the menu and create a lush, romantic terrace for dining.

Transwestern Hospitality Group envisions the Granduca Hotel soon becoming The place to see and be seen in Houston, returning the buzz that surrounded the hotel, its bar and restaurants during the early years. The plan is to create a destination hotel, attracting visitors who wish to experience its grandeur and Houstonians enamored with the European ambience.

As Duncan notes of the acquisition, “It was the perfect opportunity to create something that the market needs and that both locals and visitors want.”

Alba Ristorante at Hotel Granduca
Alba Ristorante at Hotel Granduca

In addition to ground floor revisions that include new workout facilities and improved event space, THG has plans to refresh the Hotel Granduca guest rooms with focus on comfort, technology, modernization and service. Phase II of the project will see an overhaul of the hotel’s 122 rooms and suites.

Transwestern Hospitality Group’s expertise in placemaking and food and beverage is shown in significant hotels in Jackson Hole’s Teton Village, Martha’s Vineyard and beyond. TGH is now poised for full immersion in hotel properties. Hotel Granduca marks its first ownership position, one that will expand as the team researches other sophisticated boutique hotel opportunities around the country.

Hotel Granduca owners Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi with interior designer Kara Childress.
Hotel Granduca owners Cathy and Giorgio Borlenghi with interior designer Kara Childress.

“Our good friend, Giorgio Borlenghi, as master developer of Uptown, designed and built this iconic hotel some 17 years ago with his signature quality standards and remarkable eye for detail,” Duncan says in a statement. “We are privileged to have this opportunity to further elevate the Granduca hospitality experience for our guests.

“And we are delighted that Giorgio remains a stakeholder who will consult with us to unleash the full potential of this extraordinary property.”

Westmont Hospitality Group has been selected to operate the hotel. In collaboration with THG is Ring on Hook, which specializes in hospitality renovations and venue activations, as well as other placemaking consultants

Launching some 18 months ago, THG is an extension of Transwestern, Houston’s 46-year-old privately held commercial real estate firm.

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