The renovation and rebranding and of the former DoubleTree by Hilton Houston Downtown into a Curio Collection property named the C. Baldwin is shining some limelight on one of the city’s lesser-known co-founders.
More specifically, the soon-to-debut new handle for the high-end hotel honors Charlotte Baldwin Allen. History now suggests her funds likely helped bankroll the 6,000-acre land deal in 1836 by her husband and brother in-law, better known in these parts as the Allen Brothers, real estate speculators from Upstate New York.
While the legacy of Charlotte, who was married to founding brother Augustus Chapman Allen, acknowledges her pioneering role as “Mother of Houston” and lauds her hands-on 19th c. presence as a pivotal businesswoman, cattle rancher, philanthropist and trailblazer, her name has only graced an elementary school, a steamboat and a city park.
As the C. Baldwin hotel ownership – Brookfield Properties – renovates the 40-year-old property at 400 Dallas St. into the second of Hilton’s boutique Curio properties downtown, her name will mark a gateway location on the west side of downtown. Meanwhile, higher level views from the hotel take in the very bayou she and the brothers Allen punted to reach the muddy banks of their incipient town site.
Behind the pipe and drape
A recent media peek mid-construction revealed the shape of things to come at the 354-room hotel, its 14,000 square feet of meeting space; signature restaurant, abundant green space and newly announced upscale retail: Sloan/Hall luxury goods and an all-natural salon, Paloma.
Houston has some great hotels, but none is emblematic of the city’s mojo as a “boot-strapping economic powerhouse and global hub that just happens to be wildly diverse, wonderfully eccentric and exceedingly cosmopolitan,” General Manager Maggie Rosa says in project announcements. It was time to introduce a hospitality experience that embodies that “while honoring an awe-inspiring female pioneer.”
C. Baldwin sources said the target market is independent travelers and, to some extent, female travelers.
During the current renovation project, which is expected to re-launch in a series of soft openings in the months ahead, the hotel has remained open. In June, the hotel’s new identity takes hold, with meeting rooms rolling out in July and guest rooms fully loaded with amenities by the end of August. Food and beverage offerings are a September debut, including the new restaurant, Rosalie.
On a hard hat tour of the construction site, Chris Baran, sales and marketing director, said the design process and thinking went hyper-local: “It eats, sleeps and breathes Houston.” Any doubts or challenges along the way, he said, would trigger a discussion of “WWCD” – or What Would Charlotte Do?
From the street, the re-booting property has a more guest-friendly arrival off the circular driveway due to a “living wall” of greenery above the storefront windows. Inside, the lobby’s extended “resort style” layout allows guests to access (or avoid) common areas scaled for events, Baran explained. (In other words, step right for the inn, step left for events, step through for the social hub.) One new feature is showroom-style retractable windows for driving display cars into the building. Another isn’t build-out, it’s a signature scent. Some local history references are planned for one of the lobby walls.
Given the needle-nosed end of the 20-story tower, some guest rooms and suites incorporate unique floor plans. All are fully loaded with modern amenities, high-end finishes and a collection of artwork depicting the local vibe, from fashion to settings. The ground level, newly flooded in natural light after its ’80s-vintage dark and draped mode, has a deliberate through-view that’s intended to connect the now much greener spaces of the property.
Baran said the more opened space connects the hotel visually and physically to Allen Center. That three-tower office complex of 3.2 million square feet is also in the midst of multi-phased redevelopment by Brookfield. Its first phase of re-imagining, estimated at $48.5 million, opened in 2017.
Company sources declined to share the hotel’s transformation budget.
Curio Collection by Hilton is comprised of more than 65 one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts. Houston’s other Curio Collection property is the Sam Houston Hotel.
Teaming with Women
The C. Baldwin redevelopment project team includes contractors Houston-based Tellepsen, Turner Construction Co., and architects Morrison Dillworth + Walls and Design One. True to the project’s namesake, several successful business women are playing significant roles in the transformation. Among them – and in addition to Rosa:
- Lauren Rottet of Houston-based Rottet Studio, who designed the guestrooms and public spaces
- Kate Rohrer of ROHE Creative, who designed the food and beverage interiors
- Jennifer Rutkowski, Brookfield’s vice president, hospitality
- Elizabeth Conley, whose photography and curated artwork graces guest rooms
- Lauren French, senior brand designer for Portland-based Sockeye.
And Charlotte? WWCD? Would she smile at her modern day moment? She’s sharing it a bit. The development team has rolled with the pioneering woman theme by naming its meeting rooms after prominent Texas women: Adina De Zavala, an early, tireless protector of Texas History – including efforts to save portions of the Alamo; Sen. Barbara Jordan, a lawyer, educator, politician and Civil Rights leader; pilot Bessie Coleman, also known as Brave Bessie and The Only Race Aviatrix in the World; Edna Dee Woodford Saunders, empress of the arts in Houston; Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, the first female governor of Texas; Isabel Brown Wilson, businesswoman, journalist and cultural philanthropist; and rock, soul and blues singer-songwriter Janis Joplin, music legend.