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Real Estate - Commercial

Boutique Hospitality Firm Eyes Downtown Wilmington Hotel

By Cece Nunn, posted Aug 10, 2017
A conceptual rendering (at top) gives an idea of what the potential new owner of The Wilmingtonian has in store, including a restaurant, for the corner building at the hotel, shown Thursday (below). (Rendering courtesy of Arrive; photo by Cece Nunn)
A Palm Springs, California-based company could soon be the new owner of The Wilmingtonian, a 26-room hotel in downtown Wilmington.

Arrive, a firm that launched its brand more than a year ago with a Palm Springs boutique hotel, has The Wilmingtonian under contract for an undisclosed amount. The list price for the property at 101 S. Second St. is $2.95 million, according to Loopnet.com, and the listing agent is Jim Quinn of Creative Commercial Properties.

If the sale goes through, Arrive officials hope to be able to add rooms to the hotel for a total of 34 and create a restaurant and bar in what is currently the office and reception building at the corner of Second and Dock streets. In addition to the variance (expected to be considered by city officials in September) for the room-number expansion, changing the facade of the corner building will require Historic Preservation Commission review.

"For our brand story specifically, we look at cities and neighborhoods in places where there's something interesting going on, something that is becoming more and more popular, becoming more and more on the map, and so we’ve been looking around at different places for us to continue growing the Arrive brand," said Ezra Callahan, one of the founders of Arrive Hotels & Restaurants. "A lot of the characteristics of Wilmington really jumped out at us so, we started looking at possible opportunities there. The Wilmingtonian itself as a property very much fits with our goal of building what we call neighborhood hotels that are built as much to be landmarks within the local community as a place for visiting guests."

In addition to a 32-room Palm Springs Arrive hotel, the company has two restaurants and an event space there. Arrive recently broke ground on an 83-room hotel in East Austin, Texas, that's expected to open in 2019. Currently under construction by Arrive is a 62-room hotel in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, at an historic property that used to be a warehouse and then office space.

For The Wilmingtonian, which has been on the market before, now is the time to sell, said Michael Compton, a Wilmington resident. Compton has co-owned and operated Second Street hospitality properties with partner Tom Scott, including The Wilmingtonian, for almost three decades.

Over the years, Compton and Scott sold the City Club at 23 S. Second St. and a property across the street, which at one time was Hotel Tarrymore and now holds Tarantelli's, an Italian restaurant.

Of The Wilmingtonian, Compton said Thursday, "We've had that business now for nearly 30 years, and we're both well into our 70s. Though we still enjoy a good profit, we're happy to sell the place because we're getting too old to run it. We both want to retire. We have a general manager [Erich Weinrich] who does a good job."

The Wilmingtonian includes three buildings. Dram Tree House, built in 1904 and renovated in 1987, contains seven one-bedroom suites and a courtyard, according to The Wilmingtonian website. Built in 1994, the 11-suite Cinema House was named in honor of the film stars, directors and producers who have regularly stayed there when on location in Wilmington.

Maritime House was built in the early 1950s as a convent for the nuns who taught at the St. Thomas Church, which is behind the property and is now St. Thomas Preservation Hall. Renovated in 1993, the building has eight suites on two floors.

Callahan said Arrive would subdivide some of the suites to increase the room count. For the restaurant and bar, they propose to build a covered outdoor patio that would be attached to the restaurant. Guests could check in at the bar. 

"That's probably the easiest way for us to connect with locals in the neighborhood -- through food and beverage," Callahan said.

He said what exactly the restaurant and bar will serve has yet to be determined, though Arrive has been speaking with people in the food scene in Wilmington and plans to get input from neighbors. The updated hotel would likely be called Arrive Wilmington.

Compton said, "I think Arrive will keep it boutique and interesting. It'll be a step forward for the hotel and to some extent, the city."

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