NEW YORK—Art is where it’s at for 21c Museum Hotels, and the company’s management team wants it to be everywhere.
The 21c concept of combining a boutique hotel with a contemporary art museum was launched during 2006 when the first property opened in Louisville, Kentucky. The company’s owners want to expand that reach by developing 15 hotels during the next five years.
“We think there are cities across the country and world that are yearning for this type of experience in their hometown,” said Craig Greenberg, 21c’s vice chair, during a break at the recent New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. “Having the right partner is important. We’re looking for communities looking for different cultural experiences.”
|Guestrooms in 21c hotels feature artwork from local artists.
The company found its first expansion opportunities in Cincinnati, Ohio, Austin, Texas, and downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. The Arkansas project is a US$28-million hotel based on the core concept created for a flagship hotel in Louisville, which was voted the top hotel in the U.S. and the sixth-best hotel in the world in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers’ Choice awards. The 130-room Bentonville hotel, which has investors that include a Walton family partnership and Bentonville Restoration, is expected to break ground this fall and open in 2012.
“Right now we have an ownership stake in all of them, but we are flexible,” Greenberg said.
21c stands for 21st century and contemporary.
Greenberg said the expansion plans came about because of the original hotel’s rampant success in Louisville. That 90-room hotel enjoys a 150-plus RevPAR Index compared to its competitive set and 300-plus RevPAR Index compared to the Louisville market, according to Greenberg.
Michael Bonadies, president and CEO, said featuring area artists in the hotel’s public space is a way to have locals involved to enhance the property’s reputation.
“21c is all about being inclusive, warm and welcoming,” he said. “It’s not typical of a boutique hotel."
president and CEO
21c Museum Hotels
The art museum portions of 21c hotels are open around the clock and are free to the public. During 2009, more than 200,000 people visited the art shows at the Louisville property, which also has a ballroom and meeting space.
“The art is the real energy,” Bonadies said. “We’re a museum hotel. We have rotating curated shows of contemporary living artists that provide a unique experience that other hotels don’t provide, (can’t) provide or (are not) willing to provide.”
A highlight of the Louisville property is the 40 red penguins that originally were placed together but have become pieces that guests can move around the hotel. They’ve become icons of the 21c brand and will be featured at all future hotels—although the colors will be different, Greenberg said.
Design Architect Deborah Berke & Partners created the original property’s look and will be involved in most projects going forward, including the Bentonville hotel.
21c Museum Hotel was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, philanthropists and art lovers.