Room Upgrade: A second historical hotel gets a green makeover

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story by Liz PachecoWITH MORE THAN 50 BOUTIQUE hotels in 24 cities, Kimpton  operates on a large scale, making their sustainability initiatives all the more impressive. Their first hotel in Philadelphia, the Palomar, opened in September 2009 in the landmark Architects Building, and earned LEED Gold certification. This October, Kimpton opened their second Philadelphia location, the Hotel Monaco, after renovating the Lafayette Building on the corner of Fifth and Chestnut Streets. Formerly owned and operated by Stephan Girard, the building is also slated for a LEED Gold certification. Only the Palomar and Monaco are LEED certified, but all Kimpton hotels follow their in-house “EarthCare Program,” which includes more than 100 eco-friendly operating practices, such as in-room recycling, water-efficient fixtures, energy-efficient lighting, and organic foods and drinks for hotel patrons. On the morning of the Monaco’s opening, Grid talked with Niki Leondakis, Kimpton’s president, about the Monaco and the company’s commitment to sustainability. 

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Why open a second LEED-certified hotel here in Philadelphia?

It’s not every—or many—hospitality companies that can take an historic building like this and reinvent it into a hotel… It represented a great opportunity combined with the fact that we love this city. The Palomar has been a tremendously successful project for us. The city has welcomed us with open arms. Mayor Nutter has been a fantastic supporter and partner in getting these projects done for us. So we couldn’t wait to do a Monaco at this beautiful building.

Kimpton was founded in 1981; how long has sustainability been a part of the mission?

It’s always been part of the company’s ethos… We’re a San Francisco-based company, so long before environmentalism became popular people in San Francisco were concerned about the natural environment and how to protect it… It was a multi-year strategy to really do everything we saw possible. And we’re still at it. Every day there are new ideas that come from our employees, there are new products coming into the marketplace. So it’s a continuous improvement process, but that’s how it got started and it will hopefully never end.

Are there any sustainability efforts at the Hotel Monaco that hotel guests might not notice?

There’s a lot that we do that the guests won’t notice… A good example is the cleaning supplies that the housekeepers use in the guest rooms… [The housekeepers] take a lot of pride in what they do, and they were very unhappy [the non-toxic cleansers] didn’t foam… They started bringing in their own stuff from home. We had to really do a much better job of communicating… They finally got it because they started noticing, many of them were having rashes and skin conditions, and their hands started clearing up [after using the new products]. And that’s when they started to understand this was better for them.

Learn more about Kimpton sustainability practices at kimptonhotels.com