New hotels in Bronx set to redefine borough

Marriott, Empire Group to offer premium amenities

The Andrew Freedman on the Grand Concourse
The Andrew Freedman on the Grand Concourse

A flurry of new hotels in the Bronx are bringing the borough Manhattan-esque comforts, the New York Times reported.

Hotel chains that have a strong presence in Manhattan are reinventing the makeup of the Bronx. Marriott is slated to open a 125-room Residence Inn in 2014 at an under-construction commercial development in the Pelham Bay Area. The Empire Hotel Group, which runs seven boutique hotels in Manhattan, is transforming an opera house in the South Bronx into a 60-room hotel with perks such as custom furnishings, complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea and coffee. And in December, the Andrew Freedman, a landmarked building, was converted into a 10-room luxury hotel which sports amenities such as flat-screen televisions and a grand piano, and charges between $130 and $250 a night.

Developers are being drawn to the borough by its low land prices, high availability of commercial space, good public transport and robust cultural fabric have boosted its appeal in recent years, as The Real Deal previously reported.  “We really believe in the Bronx, we believe in where it’s going,” Douglas Brookman, who is in charge of the Bronx Opera House Hotel project, told the Times. “We’re hoping we start the movement in this area.”

Some hoteliers are targeting those who cannot afford Manhattan’s asking rates; others are eyeing those who are in the Bronx for a specific purpose, such as a Yankees game or a local college visit.

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The ambitious developments have seen some resistance from poor residents of the community, who argue that they do not address the larger problems of the borough, such as a shortage of affordable housing.

Still, elected officials and community activists, many migrants from Manhattan, feel that the borough needs this shot in the arm to move forward and alleviate poverty. Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, is surging ahead with a project that would see a little-used parking garage near Yankee Stadium replaced with the borough’s first full-service hotel and conference center. Local developers have also suggested plans for other ventures, including a boutique hotel off the Italian enclave at Arthur Avenue.

“There’s a transformation going on in the Bronx, and we want to be part of it,” Marcia Fingal, marketing director for the Mid-Bronx Senior Citizens Council, which owns the Andrew Freedman mansion on the Grand Concourse, told The Times . “It is no longer this burnt-out place. That’s the old story.” [NYT] —Hiten Samtani