Living healthy, whether in terms of fitness, organic food or a “green” interior landscape is the new luxury. For travelers at the upper end of the price/star rating spectrum, taking that lifestyle with them when they travel, for business, leisure or “bleisure” is a given. Below that price point, though, not so much. Enter SCP Hotels, whose first hotel in Colorado Springs is positioned under most of the local midscale offers.
“Currently there are no other select service hotel brands centered on the values of wellness, social responsibility and eco-friendliness, yet the data overwhelmingly supports the fact that a deep and growing segment of travelers will go out of their way and pay more to stay in hotels that prioritize those things,” says Ken Cruse, cofounder and ceo, Soul Community Planet, LLC (SCP Hotels’ parent company) and cofounder and ceo, Alpha Wave Investors. While there are chain offerings that cater to personal health in the full-service sector, Cruse saw a need for holistic hospitality that betters both the individual and the community at a real-world ADR. The company is also prepared to walk the walk on bettering the world, not just the lives of its guests. SCP donates 5% of its profits to nonprofits that support those beliefs.
While he may claim that SCP exists simply to lead a social change, not as a profit driver, Cruse’s development and design decisions give the idealistic young brand a solid foundation for financially sustainable growth. Like a lot of his lifestyle hotelier peers, he sees opportunities in repurposing outmoded hotel buildings, especially former motels. Because their exterior corridors and tough-to-update construction make them challenging or cost prohibitive for major brands to renovate, they offer independent hoteliers a foothold in key markets and locations.
The purchase price is a fraction of a newbuild, as well as being far more eco-conscious than ground-up construction. For the Colorado Springs hotel, the purchase price was equated to the land value, due to the property’s condition and poor operating standards (witness the 1-star Yelp reviews). Conveniently, of course, shorter renovation timelines also make projects less liable to increasing construction costs or tariffs.
Each project’s CapEx varies somewhat for SCP, but the bulk of the budget typically goes to fire-life safety upgrades and new energy efficient systems “Our renovations will typically average less than $50,000 per key for an entire building retrofit (including adding SCP Fit fitness space, SCP Commons creative coworking spaces, new energy efficient systems, solar, water saving fixtures, etc.),” says Cruse.
Think of the Colorado Springs property as a case study: $9 million and nine months had to radically transform a former nightmare hotel into a cutting-edge healthy, green, aspirational environment. A full gut renovation was inescapable. That’s always cool to designer Kelli Ellis. “For me when we (in this case, Ellis’ firm) really have to tear into the structure it’s exciting because I know we can make big changes. I prefer to start with a clean slate and build the design from the ground up,” she says. Ellis was in the right place. Ripping off drywall and battered ceiling tile had been Cruse’s plan all along, both to remove the material itself and to get a closer look at any structural work required.
Revealing the architectural shell also created a beautiful frame for the industrial vibe Ellis wanted. But, Cruse was clear on the need for SCP to feel “hand-crafted” and not cold. The owner and the designer found their common ground in the need to take an aggressive approach to minimizing waste. That didn’t just mean keeping the cast iron bathtubs and granite tile in the bathrooms (pretty much the only usable items in the hotel at the time they started the redo). It meant just saying no to products that likely would be added to a landfill in the long run. That minimal philosophy made industrial ceilings, exposed brick walls and polished concrete flooring a perfect framework.
Even adding texture to the space and bringing in a more welcoming vibe had to be done in a nontraditional way. Wood might be a typical choice to humanize an interior, but the gray-blue tone of beetle kill pine is not only distinctive but an especially sustainable choice in the Colorado Rockies, where there are three million acres of it. Ellis found a local manufacturer who could transform the wood into custom guestroom furniture and doors. In the public spaces, plants do heavy lifting on several fronts: they improve air quality, create better acoustics and bring organic shapes and colors into the space. “We often under-utilize plants as filters,” says Ellis. “So, we incorporated two living walls on the property. We’ve used snake plant, Golden Pothos, English ivy and others to purify the air.” Another 650 plants make up the second (exterior) living wall.
The flora isn’t the only part of SCP that looks set to grow into new shapes and forms. Once the hotel brand is established (another hotel in Oregon is underway as of press time), Cruse plans to make SCP a brand whose fitness centers, hotels and coworking can each be standalone venues. Perfect for travelers who don’t want to leave their wellness habits behind when they walk out of the gym, end their run or turn off the workout app. “Individuals make purchases that they believe help to define who they are or who they aspire to be,” he says. Meet the new cool kids or be one of them, because this in-crowd is self-selecting.
Alpha Wave Investors
Azure Furniture Co.