By SCOTT JACKSON
City officials expressed concern over the branding of a planned North Quincy hotel, with the neighborhood’s city councillor likening it to a “bait and switch.”
Cathartes, a Boston-based real estate development firm, received permission from the Planning Board to build the five-story, 180-room hotel at the corner of Arlington and West Squantum Streets. During the approval process, Cathartes said the hotel would operate under a Marriott or Hilton brand.
On Wednesday, however, Robert Harnais, the attorney representing the developer, told the Planning Board the business would operate as a dual-flag hotel under both the Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites brands.
Harnais appeared before the board seeking approval for changes to the exterior of the proposed building, resulting from the change in branding, as well as additional landscaping improvements. He said there would be no structural changes to the building – it will remain at 180 rooms – and the hotel would still be marketed towards business travels with the same price points as a Marriott or Hilton would have had.
“The price points are the same because we’re attracting the same people,” Harnais said. “It’s not a hotel that they plan on having families come in…it’s a hotel in which business people are going to stay.”
Harnais acknowledged the Holiday Inn Express branding might make board members hesitant to back the change, given that Wednesday’s hearing came one day after a man was shot to death inside a Holiday Inn Express in Dorchester. He said the proposed North Quincy hotel would be an upscale hotel – the same company that operates Cathartes’ Marriott-branded properties will run the North Quincy one.
“This is not the Dorchester hotel. This is an upscale hotel,” Harnais said. “Their history and their reputation is known for running upscale hotels.”
Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain, in a letter to the Planning Board, compared the change in branding to a bait and switch.
“This was a last-minute surprise following the approval of the project by this very board, which has given me the impression of a bait and switch situation. For the two years I have been aware of this project, the brand of the hotel was reported to be that of a Marriott or a Hilton, but now it’s something else,” said Cain, who did not attend the meeting.
“While I understand that this project is a fait accompli, I just hope that this is not a bad omen for the future of what was once a smooth and positive process until now. I kindly ask that you encourage the developers to stick to their promise of being a good neighbor and partner in Ward 3. I can only wish for the success of their project, for that in turn will benefit our great city.”
Coleman Barry, the board’s vice chairman, also had reservations about the change in branding. He said the board had always been told it would be a Marriott or Hilton, two brands he is familiar with, unlike Holiday Inn Express or Staybridge Suites.
“I know every time I said ‘what flag is going to be flown,’ it was Hilton or Marriott,” Barry said. “I’m not quite on board that this is a minor modification.”
Barry and board member Maureen Glynn also asked Harnais to consider changing the signage on the façade. Under the new plans, both the Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites logos would be placed side by side on the corner of the top floor facing the intersection of Arlington and West Squantum Streets.
“It’s clunky looking to me,” Glynn said. “It’s a different aesthetic than what we were expecting.”
Harnais said he would ask his client to reconsider the signage.
The Planning Board did not vote on the changes to hotel’s exterior and landscaping Wednesday. The applicant will be back before the board Nov. 8, and Harnais said he would have the operator appear before the board that night to assuage officials’ concerns.