AUSTIN — The Granduca hotel brand is expanding to Austin – and perhaps to other cities – as Houston developer Giorgio Borlenghi has broken ground on the Hotel Granduca Austin, an Italian-styled luxury hotel.
The Austin hotel is the first step in what could be a national expansion of the luxury brand, says Borlenghi, the Italian born developer who has developed several high-rise office and residential towers in the Galleria area of Houston.
Built on a hillside site in west Austin, the 9-story, 194-room Hotel Granduca Austin is scheduled to be completed late next year, near the northwest corner of Bee Caves Road and Loop 360.
Borlenghi, head of Interfin Cos., says the expansion of the Granduca brand into Austin comes as the Granduca in Houston has registered excellent results as a luxury hotel – one of three 5-star hotels in Houston, according to Priceline.
“In the last three years Hotel Granduca has become one of the most successful hotels, not only in Houston, but in the state of Texas,” Borlenghi says. “It has become a phenomenal success and that’s why its time for us to start expanding the concept.”
“We believe in Texas – and outside of Texas – there are quite a number of cities that would be perfect locations for something like this. Our hope and our goal is to start expanding in other markets because it’s a great concept and it works,” Borlenghi says.
Interfin has no other sites under contract, but will look for other locations soon, after the Austin project is launched, he says.
“The four most successful hotels in Texas are the Four Seasons in Austin, the Hotel Granduca in Houston, the W in Austin and the Driskill in Austin. Austin is a very, very vibrant and amazing hotel market,” Borlenghi says.
“The average rate we have in Houston is $340, which is really at the top of the market. Austin will be quite similar,” Borlenghi says. “We are on the west side of town and we’ll start with rates that might be a little lower in that just to get our market share in place.”
The Hotel Granduca Austin will be competing in a rarified league with the Four Seasons Hotel and a handful of other Austin hotels in the highest tier of room rate, service and luxury amenities. Room rates are expected to be $300 a night, or more.
Hotel Granduca Austin is a joint venture between Borlenghi’s Houston-based Interfin Companies LP and Riverside Resources of Austin.
Austin is by far the strongest hotel market in Texas with a citywide room rates and an average occupancy rate of 75 percent, which is basically as good as it gets, says hotel consultant Bruce Walker of Source Strategies. The only city to come close to Austin is Houston, with a 69 percent occupancy rate, but other major Texas cities are far behind Austin.
At first, Borlenghi began looking in downtown Austin for a new hotel site. But large parcels were not available and the downtown market is getting ready for several major new hotels to be completed, including the 1,000-room J.W. Marriott on Congress Avenue and a new 366-room Westin on East Fifth Street.
He soon located this Westlake area site off of Bee Caves Road and marked out the five acres for planting the Granduca hotel flag.
“It’s in an area of town that’s underserved by hotels. It’s only 15 minutes away from downtown and from UT,” says Borlenghi. “It gives us the opportunity to create our own market and something different, offering a real alternative to people traveling to Austin.”
Borlenghi said the hotel will have in-house restaurant that will feature northern Italian cuisine similar to the Houston Hotel Granduca’s Ristorante Cavour – recently named one of the best Italian restaurants in Houston.
Gromatzky, Dupree & Associates of Dallas is the architect for the Austin hotel. Ermy Borlenghi Bonfield of 3-E Designs, Inc. of Houston, Giorgio Borlenghi’s sister, is handling interior design of the property and his son, Alex Borlenghi, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin last year, is working on the hotel as vice president of development for Interfin.
Borlenghi’s Interfin Cos. has developed a number of office and residential towers in the Galleria area of Houston, including Four Oaks Place and Four Leaf Towers and Uptown Park. Interfin recently started construction on another high-rise residential tower in Houston.
The Hotel Granduca in Houston is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World,” a designation that will be sought for the Hotel Granduca Austin as well.
Interfin’s partner in the Austin hotel is Riverside Resources, an Austin-based developer that has developed office and residential properties in the city, including the Whitney high-rise residential tower in downtown. Riverside will develop a seven-story office building adjacent to the Hotel Granduca Austin.