Well, well well. Just when we thought the Cambria Hotel bound for 68-72 East Avenue in the Rainey Street District was dead in the water, the project’s filed a new site plan with the city — the first real update on this development since 2017. This new site plan, filed to replace the woefully-expired plan from almost two years ago, doesn’t appear to have changed much from the first go-around — it’s a 14-story building, bringing 225 rooms to market, with design by the folks at Rhode Partners. A representative of Choice Hotels, the hospitality franchiser behind the Cambria brand, informed me that the project is “still early in the development process” but declined to comment further.
The mid-market* Cambria identity has dozens of locations nationwide — actually, there’s another one in the planning stages up near the Domain. These hotels are seemingly oriented towards business travelers, and though some of them include a full bar and restaurant as part of their on-site amenities, the brand doesn’t seem overly concerned with providing an “experience” the way you might expect from a luxury or boutique concept (although some of their locations are still pretty nice, architecturally-speaking).
It appears the minds behind projects like Cambria and the Homewood Suites at 78 East Avenue — which should be opening any time now, though it’s been slow going — are confident that the draw of Rainey Street’s entertainment district, along with average room rates lower than what you’d find somewhere like the Fairmont, will be more than enough to entice travelers to forego the trendier options.
This also seems to be the case at 76 East Avenue, a .29-acre site located smack in the middle between the Cambria site and Homewood Suites building — where, per city filings from last summer, Corpus Christi-based hospitality developer Palak Investments plans to develop a 14-story, 107-room location of Fairfield Inn & Suites.
Fairfield, a Marriott International brand, is a decidedly “economy” chain of franchised lodgings, which Wikipedia tells me achieves its low room rates through cost-cutting measures “such as consistent building architecture and bedding, and the omission of a full-service restaurant.”
Consistent architecture, huh? The good news is, this tiny site won’t allow the hotel to build exactly the way it might on the side of a highway somewhere, which is why it’s 14 stories tall — and that might mean we’re getting something at least slightly more creative than what you’re seeing on Google. Hey, this one doesn’t look so bad!
Still, as East Avenue continues its evolution into one of the more interesting development corridors in the downtown area, it’s arguably at least a slight missed opportunity that many of the avenue’s vacant parcels north of River Street are finding themselves occupied by hotel chains not that different than what you might see out by an airport somewhere — the only truly interesting hotel proposed in the area was the Kimber Modern-affiliated boutique development at 62 East Avenue, which fell through back in 2015.
To be fair, with the Cambria getting design work from the local architects at Rhode Partners, and the Fairfield possibly looking a little different than most of its locations due to the small size of its lot, we’re trying to be as optimistic as we can — that doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily got to love what they did with the exterior of the Homewood Suites, mind you. It’s going to take a while for that building to grow on us.
*After the publication of this article, I received an email from Megan Toolan, an account manager at Philadelphia public relations firm Tierney, which handles communications for Choice Hotels. Here’s that email in its entirety:
I am reaching out on behalf of Choice Hotels regarding a story you published yesterday: On Rainey Street’s Doorstep, the Cambria Hotel is Back From the Dead. We wanted to share a little bit of background on Cambria Hotels and clarify that the brand falls within the upscale segment rather than a mid-market brand as was listed. Cambria guests can expect a distinct, upscale experience that makes every stay feel like an upgrade with contemporary essentials and approachable indulgences, such as:
- Central locations near popular dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences
- Thoughtfully designed guestrooms, complete with modern fixtures, abundant lighting, and device recharge capabilities
- Immersive spa-like bathrooms with Bluetooth mirrors
- Multi-functional meeting spaces with places to work and hang out with free Wi-Fi
- State-of-the-art workout facilities
- Onsite dining featuring freshly prepared food, locally sourced craft beer selections, and a full bar
- 24/7 convenience stores in select locations stocked with comfort foods and healthy snacks
- Many locations feature pools and rooftop bars and restaurants
Please let me know if you have any questions regarding Cambria Hotels.