A 102-room “brewtel” with a craft beer theme plans to tap into the local craft beer scene by growing hops on its rooftop to sell to a local brewer.
Slated to open in early 2021, it will employ 40 full-time and an unspecified number of seasonal workers.
The Cambria Hotel chain’s first property in Maine will be located at 25 Hancock St. among the new WEX and Covetrus headquarters buildings and Shipyard Brewing near the city’s east end.
The six-story hotel will have an indoor-outdoor bar on the rooftop, where owners also plan to grow hops for partner Shipyard and serve local food on a menu curated by celebrity chef Fabio Vivani.
“We’ll build out the ceiling and walls and use color pallets and leather so the hotel has the soul and spirit of Portland and India Street,” said
Janis Cannon, senior vice president of upscale brands for Choice Hotels, the company that owns the Cambria brand. “We plan to capture the graffiti in the area in our art and murals.”
Cannon said the location is convenient for businesspeople and tourists wanting easy access to downtown Portland. It also will have covered parking.
The hotel held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
Cambria has 45 other hotels and plans to have 50 by the end of this year, including one in Boston’s “Southie” neighborhood that is slated to open in September. Another location in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is scheduled to open in 2022.
An oversaturated market?
Market experts are starting to question how many more hotels Portland can sustain. The Cambria property will add to 21 hotels that already operate in Portland. There are 89 hotels in greater Portland, which stretches from Scarborough to Freeport.
The same question continues to be asked about the craft beer market, which continues to grow, adding $260 million annually to Maine’s economy. As with beer, the demand for hotel rooms remains strong.
“People who build hotels aren’t dumb people. They still see an opportunity for growth,” said Steve Hewins, president and CEO of HospitalityMaine, an industry group. “But people are looking at hotels in Portland and asking when it all will end.”
According to Hewins, at least six more hotels are planned in Portland.
“In 2010, before additional hotels came on board, people didn’t think the city would be able to absorb the extra hotels, but it did,” said Lynn Tillotson, president and CEO of Visit Portland, a tourism group.
Tillotson said that in addition to the 21 hotels with more than 20 rooms each in Portland, there are 13 bed and breakfasts.
Nightly rates at Portland’s Cambria will run $200 to $250 on an annual basis, including high and low seasons, Cannon said. The rates are higher than the average Portland hotel rate of $184 per night.
And while hotel rates in Portland continue to be strong, Hewins does not think they can go much higher.
“We’re concerned about how long they can increase room rates because occupancy rates haven’t increased a lot and new hotels add more inventory,” he said.
Maine’s and Portland’s occupancy rates are higher than the U.S. average, as are average daily room rates.
The occupancy rate for all of Maine’s hotels was 80.9 percent this July, nudging up from 78.6 percent in July 2018, according to Hewins. That compares to the U.S. occupancy rate of 73.8 percent.
In Portland, the occupancy rate was much higher than the U.S. average at 86.1 percent, up more than 2 percent over July 2018.
Average daily room prices in Maine and Portland also are above the U.S. average of $135.04 per night. Maine was at $187.76 and Portland at $184.12. Bangor and northern Maine were at $142.51. However, York County was $243.80 and the midcoast at $220.42 per night, much higher than other areas of the state, according to figures from Hewins.
Labor shortages persist
Hewins said his biggest concern is the labor shortage, which is hitting all parts of the state.
“Hotels are struggling to clean rooms throughout the state, with some even closing rooms,” he said.
Cannon plans to alleviate labor issues by tying in to apprenticeship and educational programs at Southern Maine Community College. The hotel has hired a property management company, Donohoe, to form partnerships in Maine.
“When we work with a national management company like Donohoe they can pull talent from other parts of the country,” she said. “This gives workers training and career development opportunities.”
Bateman Partners, the developer for the hotel, has several projects in the area and has installed cameras to monitor the construction progress of the hotel. The cameras will give three different time-lapse views and are on its website.
David Bateman, president of Bateman Properties, said the hotel project is creating needed tax revenue for the city.
“That’s why curiosity about progress there is sky-high,” he said. “These cameras are a great option for keeping everybody up to speed.”