Harbor View Hotel festivities mark new owner's renovations
Summer guests have replaced the construction crews that worked so diligently through the winter and spring. Now that the first phase of a multi-million dollar renovation of the Harbor View Hotel is complete, its new owner plans to honor the past and celebrate the future of the stately building that has overlooked the entrance to Edgartown Harbor since 1891.
Beginning with a private cocktail party on Saturday that benefits the YMCA capital campaign, the Harbor View Hotel will inaugurate a week of public and private activities intended as a thank-you to the community and a preview of the future.
Celebration Week events include an Island art exhibit on Sunday, an architecture and history lecture on Tuesday and a model sailboat demonstration and race next Friday.
In a recent conversation with The Times in the hotel's freshly painted dining room, Alan Worden of Nantucket, a principle in Scout Real Estate Capital Limited Liability Corporation, outlined his vision for the Harbor View Hotel and its sister property, The Kelley House, located in the heart of Edgartown just a short walk from Memorial Wharf.
The Harbor View Hotel, a grand landmark on the Edgartown harbor shore, was built in 1891 and has just been renovated. Photo by Jon Ollwerther
Scout Real Estate purchased the properties in December 2006 for $45 million.
Mr. Worden, who has extensive experience in real estate investment and managing luxury properties, is focused on the upscale. And he plans to spend $77 million to transform the Harbor View and Kelley House into luxury properties filled with amenities for sophisticated visitors who expect a first class Martha's Vineyard experience.
The man behind the vision and sizeable investment is an architect by training who spent ten years in New York City as a real estate investment banker and moved to Nantucket, taking time out of a busy schedule to sail to New Zealand with his wife. In speaking about his business plan one word, "authenticity," comes up again and again in the conversation.
Mr. Worden's business interests include resort properties on Nantucket, Bermuda, and Hawaii. He said that finding "authentic" properties and making it possible for guests to experience those places is what his company is all about.
The porch railing has been lowered to allow a better view of the harbor. Photo by Ralph Stewart
For visitors to the Harbor View that could include a bicycle ride on Vineyard roads using bicycles supplied by the hotel, a kayak tour or even an opportunity to pull lobster pots on a hotel lobster boat. "We are trying to move from being a hotel to more of a resort that encompasses the entire experience," said Mr. Worden.
After looking at a property in the Caribbean, Mr. Worden was surprised to learn that the Harbor View was on the market. He saw the authenticity that defines his company's properties in the hotel's shingle style architecture, its location on Starbuck Neck and in all the qualities that make the Vineyard a destination for people from around the world.
This winter and spring Mr. Worden spent time meeting with neighbors and community leaders to talk about his plans for the property. One of his messages was, "We want the Vineyard to stay the Vineyard."
To that end his company plans to start up a foundation that can support community based initiatives. The hotel has contributed to an effort to remove utility poles in the neighborhood and plans to work with local groups to spruce up the lighthouse park. "We want to organize our giving in a way that makes sense," he said.
The first phase of the hotel renovation included interior and exterior changes designed to provide a better view of the harbor from the lobby and the porch. The hotel also boasts four newly renovated cottages
Each cottage includes a fireplace, plasma television, and fine furnishings designed to appeal to people who expect the highest quality - and who will not blink at a room rate of $950 per night.
Subject to permitting, future plans include a spa and fitness center and expanded function space that will help to attract more shoulder-season business. Mr. Worden sees a huge opportunity in the off-season.
The refurbished lobby is open and airy. Photo by Ralph Stewart
Future packages could be designed to attract travelers who demand value and service and senior level executives looking for a unique venue for management programs that combine business with pleasure.
For area business people and town leaders who subscribe to the view that a rising tide raises all boats, the multi-million dollar renovation and upscale marketing plan is good news for the local economy. "I think it is very significant that people of this caliber have decided to invest a lot of money into bringing what they are about to bring to Edgartown," said Edgartown selectman Art Smadbeck.
Referencing the Navigator Restaurant project and the Field Club, Mr. Smadbeck, a local realtor, said the Harbor View project is the latest example of a significant investment in the town by people who have made a commitment to provide a level of quality and maintain the character that defines Edgartown.
Mr. Smadbeck said the benefits of these types of investments ripple through the community. "It is certainly better than having people crying because people aren't coming and business is terrible," he said.