The polished hardwood floors, outdoor showers, stone countertops and crisp white paneled walls would be unrecognizable to Captains Bradley, Luce, Collins, Morse, Osborne, Rowley and Huxford, the whaling captains for whom the cottages at the Harbor View Hotel are named. Nor would the hotel employees who rented rooms in the cottages in the 1960s recognize them now.
Tucked behind the straight-edged hedges and pristine picket fences of the historic hotel, the 18 captain’s cottages have hosted multitudes of hotel guests over the years. And now the hotel is looking to sell them as luxury suites.
“It’s whole ownership, deeded, complete ownership,” explained Leslie Floyd, director of sales at the Harbor View, stressing the added benefit of hotel living: pool, beach access, and daily housekeeping. “It’s an ease of ownership, you don’t have to worry about taking care of anything.”
The suites were put up for sale this past July after being renovated just before the financial crisis of 2008. Their sale is a display of renewed confidence in the economy on the part of the hotel and its investors, hotel senior managers said.
“The economy is recovering very rapidly,” said Robin Kirk, general manager of the hotel since May of 2011. “Large numbers of people are interested in owning a unique part of the Island.”
In September 2007, the Boston Globe featured the cottage investment project in the Real Estate section, declaring that the Harbor View was “being converted into a hotel-condominium hybrid.” The paper reported that the entire hotel renovation project would cost Scout $115 million.
But in 2008, due to the economic recession, sale of the cottages was halted. This summer, the suites were once again put up for sale, with the backing of a local investor group, whose members include neighborhood homeowners.
“We changed the nature of the investor group in the hotel, and the new investor group supported the concept of selling the cottages,” Mr. Kirk said. “We thought the time was right.”
After nearly five years, and a $30 million hotel renovation, which included a partial renovation of the suites, the suites recently went up for sale. Three of the apartments have been put on reserve since July, though the sales are not final. One of the prospective buyers is an older man who wishes to downsize from his current Island home, the upkeep of which has become overwhelming in recent years. “He didn’t need a large home and didn’t want the headaches,” Ms. Floyd said. Others are considering the cottages as guest houses to accommodate visitors.
Mr. Kirk said cottage ownership comes with the convenience of access to a maintenance staff, gardeners, cleaning service and storage for summer gear during the off-season. Perks include access to an owner concierge who will cater to owners’ needs – including stocking refrigerators prior to their arrival, daily housekeeping and discounted boating prices.
The hotel is appealing primarily to former guests, especially those who have come back to the Island year after year. “We think people want to own on Martha’s Vineyard, and they want it to be seamless and smooth,” he said.
Many of the cottages still occupy their original location, but some were transplants from other parts of town. For example, the Captain Jason Luce cottage was moved from the old Katama Hotel in Katama around 1900. In the early 1970s, former hotel owner Bob Carroll began remodeling the cottages, which included lowering the original 15-foot ceilings. At the time, he began renting out the rooms to hotel guests instead of hotel employees.
Interior design work was done by Lisa Woodrum, whose work is featured on HGTV. There is a key limitation: due to a town restriction which requires the units to remain in part as transient hotel rooms, owners may only stay in their suites up to 120 nights per year. And the suites are equipped with kitchenettes instead of full kitchens. “We want the owners to spend dollars in town, to support local trade,” Ms. Floyd said. Multiple owners may go in together to purchase a unit, and the hotel is also expecting some corporate ownerships, Ms. Floyd said.
The cottages are not being sold as condominiums, but they do require owners to pay a resort operating fee, similar to a condominium fee, which covers maintenance and utilities. During the parts of the year when owners are not living in the suites, the hotel will rent out the units.
The Starbuck’s Neck neighborhood of Edgartown is home to some of the most expensive real estate on the Island. “There is over $500 million worth of assessed real estate,” Ms. Floyd estimated. “[This resort ownership model is] typically done in markets where entry into real estate is prohibitive for people who want this kind of real estate.”
The units are being sold as one, two and three-bedroom suites. They vary in price, with the cheapest suite priced at $566,500, and the most expensive at just under $2.5 million.
“The economics are very appealing . . . because we have large numbers of guests who want to stay in cottages,” Mr. Kirk said.
The Harbor View Hotel, founded in 1891, is the third-largest employer on the Island and a year-round Edgartown establishment. Mr. Kirk said that selling the cottages is an important part of the hotel’s overall business plan.
The hotel, a place of “calm, shelter and balm,” for all Islanders and visitors, according to Mr. Kirk, “has to have financial underpinnings to ensure the survival of this lovely institution.” As this paper reported last week, revenue was up this summer at the hotel, and the hotel has hopes to increase the number of guests during the shoulder season.
“We want [the hotel] to prosper and grow and be here for generations to come,” Mr. Kirk said.