Published on October 11th, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
Historic Buildings Find New Life as Hotels in Latin America
BY MARK CHESNUT
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM LATIN BUSINESS TRAVELER
High-rise towers and shimmering suburban corporate parks may have their allure, but classic urban hotels and repurposed historic buildings are increasingly finding new life as upscale, business-friendly hotels. With 21st-century amenities and services — and central locations near government and corporate offices — these hotels offer conveniently located alternatives to new-build properties outside the city limits.
Renovations and Re-Purposing in Mexico & Uruguay Hotels
SOFITEL MONTEVIDEO CARRASCO
The latest classic property preparing for a return to service is the 116-room Sofitel Montevideo Carrasco, which will reopen in December after an extensive renovation. Renovation of the hotel, originally constructed between 1912 and 1921 (with a major delay because of World War I) is happening with help from Vatican-trained experts, who are overseeing restoration of historic frescoes and gilding. The Sofitel’s 450-seat conference center is complemented by a spa and casino.
In Mexico City’s Centro Histórico, the appropriately named Downtown México recently opened. It’s the work of Grupo Habita, the decidedly style-conscious boutique hotel company. Housed in a 17th-century colonial structure that was once a private home, the hotel — a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World — is close to government offices. On-site meeting and entertainment options include a rooftop bar, which offers views of the Torre Latinoamericana and the Casino Español.
In the Mexican city of Pueblo, Grupo Habita has also proved its talent for recasting historic structures as hotels with La Purificadora, a former purification plant that has become a hotspot hotel for the stylish set. The Puebla property has multiple venues that can be rented for business meetings and private events, including a 200-person lobby, a 100-person restaurant and 100-person meeting room.
A Former Newspaper Headquarters in Sao Paulo
Novotel Sao Paulo Jaragua
In Brazil, the 415-room Novotel Sao Paulo Jaragua Hotel & Convention Center, offers a beautiful example of re-imagined space, in the heart of South America’s largest city. Designed by architects Adolf Franz Heep and Jacques Pilon, what is now the Novotel opened in 1948, with part of the building serving as headquarters for the daily newspaper O Estado de São Paulo. The hotel has hosted big names like Sophia Loren, Federico Fellini, Fidel Castro, Robert Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth. The modernist structure hoisted the Novotel flag in the 1990s. It is home to the Clóvis Graciano Space, which hosts art exhibitions and private events, while its meeting rooms accommodate anywhere between 24 and 400 attendees. (The Novotel Sao Paulo also made it onto Latin Flyer’s list of the 7 Coolest Mid-Century Modern Hotels in Latin America.)
Re-Imagined Luxury in Quito
In Quito, the newest luxury launch is the 31-room Casa Gangotena, a boutique hotel set in a historic former home, which has made both the Conde Nast Traveler Hot List and Travel + Leisure IT List this year. The property’s Biblioteca/Reading Room accommodates up to 14 people for boardroom-style meetings or 30 for private cocktail events. Just a few blocks away, the Hotel Plaza Grande, offers yet another re-imagined space, in what was originally the home of one of the city’s founders. Today, the Plaza Grande’s posh suites and private meeting and event space host cocktail parties and small conventions just steps from government offices.
Revival in Panama City
Other re-imagined spaces are in the works. In Panama City, the relaunch of Hotel Central will bring back online what was once the largest hotel in the city’s Casco Antiguo, gutted as part of the historic center’s ongoing upgrades. Its location near Panama’s government buildings – as well as the French embassy – could make it popular with diplomatic types. An opening date has not yet been set.
MORE TRAVEL TIPS & TRAVEL NEWS
• Getting “Wired”: Marriott Rethinks Tech and Meetings (Orbitz Travel Blog)
• Capital Ideas: 5 Travel Tips for Mexico City (Orbitz Travel Blog)
• Join the conversation! Follow LatinFlyer on Twitter