Old Town Gets a Posh UK Hotel Brand

Will the Portland neighborhood's rough edges deter Hoxton’s globe-trotting clientele?

By Eleanor Van Buren February 27, 2018 Published in the March 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

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When Naito Development scooped up the century-old Grove Hotel in 2014, Bob Naito’s Portland peers thought his $22 million investment in seedy Old Town/Chinatown was a bit of a gamble. Four years later, the Portland real estate tycoon—the developer behind the nearby Lan Su Garden and the Pearl’s Ecotrust building—could be forgiven for feeling vindicated. 

Slated to open this summer, a renovated Grove will become the Hoxton, a jewel in a rapidly growing UK-based chain that debuted in East London’s newly hip Shoreditch neighborhood and, more recently, opened an outpost in Paris’s Second Arrondissement. Created by a splashy, 37-year-old Indian-born entrepreneur, Sharan Pasricha, the Hoxton chain features buzzy, booze-and-coffee-fueled living room–style lobbies: a millennial takeover of Ethan Allen. (Rooms at the Hoxton Shoreditch start around $140 a night.) To date, the Hoxton is eyeing three additional new hotels in the United States, in Williamsburg, Los Angeles, and Chicago. “Some of our favorite brands are being designed and made in Portland,” says Hoxton’s North America director, Timothy Griffin. “As an independent developer, we’re very lucky to choose cities that we like to hang out in.”

Hoxton’s arrival in Portland came as a surprise ... even to Bob Naito. The developer’s original vision was to transform the sad, three-story stucco building, which sits just west of the iconic Chinatown gateway, into a 113-room boutique hotel with a new nine-story tower. By November 2017, Naito’s hotel looked ready to open. Then it didn’t. Naito had sold it to Hoxton’s owner, Ennismore International, for an undisclosed amount.

Will Old Town’s rough edges deter Hoxton’s globe-trotting clientele? (High crime rates and proximity to homeless shelters continue to be associated with the area.) Griffin brushes off the issue. “The brand has a history of opening in transitional neighborhoods and being part of that fabric of change,” he says. Either way, the neighborhood is in for upheaval.

“The fact that you have this neighborhood between downtown, south of Burnside, and the Pearl District,” Naito explains. “It’s—I don’t want to say the last—but certainly the next place that’s going to see a lot of investment and revitalization.”

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