Union Turns Down $1 Per Year Lease - Hotel Closes

The Goodwin Hotel in downtown Hartford shut down Monday as efforts to reach an agreement with a new operator failed before a year-end deadline for closing.

Northland, downtown’s largest property owner, had offered to lease the hotel to the union representing its workers for $1 a year to keep it open. The city also said it had “interested parties” who wanted to operate the 124-room hotel.

But by Monday, no deal to keep the Goodwin open had materialized. Despite the city’s efforts, many saw the closing as inevitable once it was announced, given the recession and credit crunch.

Lacking New Operator, Hartford’s Goodwin Hotel Closes
By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN and ERIC GERSHON
The Hartford Courant
December 30, 2008
The Goodwin Hotel in downtown Hartford shut down Monday as efforts to reach an agreement with a new operator failed before a year-end deadline for closing.

Workers installed locks on the front entrance Monday afternoon, bolting them closed for the first time in 19 years and ending the run of what was once the city’s premier boutique hotel.

Northland Investment Corp., which owns the Goodwin, announced the hotel’s closing in November, saying long-running operating losses, deepened by an industry-wide downturn in the lodging business, were too costly.

Northland, downtown’s largest property owner, had offered to lease the hotel to the union representing its workers for $1 a year to keep it open. The city also said it had “interested parties” who wanted to operate the 124-room hotel.

But by Monday, no deal to keep the Goodwin open had materialized. Despite the city’s efforts, many saw the closing as inevitable once it was announced, given the recession and credit crunch.

The future of the building, distinctive for its terra cotta facade, is uncertain.

A sign on the front entrance announced the closing Monday. The general manager said it made sense to close the Goodwin two days before the end of the year. Bookings had plummeted since the closing was announced, and by Monday there were just two guests in the hotel, General Manager Chris Barstein said. “And we didn’t have anything going on for New Year’s,” he said.

The closing will cost 100 workers their jobs, 70 of them members of Local 217, UNITE HERE. Business and pleasure travel is being cut back as corporations look to pare expenses and employees worry about layoffs. Union officials couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

The hotel, briefly known as the J.P. Morgan after the famous, occasional tenant of the original apartment building on the site, opened in 1989 and survived the downturn of the early 1990s.

Developer Larry Gottesdiener’s Northland Investment Corp. bought the hotel in 2005. After reaching a labor agreement a year later, Gottesdiener announced a renovation of as much as $10 million. A portion of the work was completed.

Northland said the Goodwin has had operating losses of more than $6 million since it took over ownership. A Northland spokesman declined to comment Monday.

The city said Monday it still hopes the Goodwin can operate as a hotel.

Sarah Barr, a spokeswoman for Mayor Eddie A. Perez, insisted that “there are still interested parties” who want to operate the hotel, but she declined to name them or say how they had communicated their interest.

“I don’t have names. And the mayor hasn’t named them. And I don’t think he’s going to,” she said. “We’re still hopeful that we can turn it around,” she said, and attract investment in a building that is key to downtown vibrancy.

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