French Quarter hotel reopens under lease deal

March 6 2009 | Latest News
French Quarter hotel reopens under lease deal
N.O. Hotel Collection takes reins from Hertz
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
By Jaquetta White
Business writer Times Picayune

The Hotel Maison De Ville quietly reopened last month, nearly three months after shutting its doors.

The French Quarter property, known for its luxury Audubon cottages and courtyard, abruptly closed Dec. 1 after owner Judah Hertz said it became too expensive to operate. The hotel is currently up for sale.

But guests were welcomed back to the 23-room facility Feb. 19 after Hertz Investment Group agreed to lease it on a month-to-month basis to New Orleans Hotel Collection LLC, a group that owns and operates other hotel properties in the city.

"It's a property that we had kept our eyes on forever and didn't want to see it close," said Craig Guidry, asset manager for New Orleans Hotel Collection LLC.

Had the property remained closed for six months, it could have lost its ability to operate as a hotel, according to the city's nonconforming-use policy. The policy says that if a hotel is not used as such for six months and a day, it must revert back to residential use.

Hertz closed the hotel with little notice or fanfare last year, in part, he said, because it wasn't a fit for his company, which owns mostly high-rise commercial office buildings. Hertz Investment Group owns just one other hotel, a 400-room Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio.

"I just can't operate it," Hertz said. "They can operate it much better."

In an effort to cut costs, the Hotel Maison De Ville will share staff with the nearby Dauphine Orleans. That hotel is partly owned by Joe Jaeger, who is president of New Orleans Hotel Collection.

Ultimately, Hertz is hoping to find a buyer for the Maison De Ville, which he said has not turned a profit in the two years since he purchased it.

The property is listed for sale with Talbot Realty. The property's listing price divides the 13-guest-room main building from the seven cottages. The former is listed for $1.95 million. The latter are for sale for $2.95 million.

Guidry said New Orleans Hotel Collection has "always had an interest" in buying the Maison De Ville, but that any plans to do so are now on the back burner as the company focuses on operating the property under its new lease agreement.

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