Beyond that, the hotel exceeded all expectations.
It was built at a time when Boston was hungry for new hotels. While The Colonnade was under construction, then-mayor Kevin White told the Globe reporter that Druker’s father – Bertram Drucker – “was in a very critical area, which is to make enough hotel space in the city, because we’re lacking in it.”
And it was in a location—linking the South End and Back Bay—that changed dramatically, moving from a disused railway yard, a ruined apartment building in a Christian Science church, and a series of outdoor courtyards to glittering blocks of malls and apartments, and office towers like 111 Huntington’s.
“The whole area just popped up around us,” Drucker said. “We like to believe that we have been a catalyst for future growth.”
And ahead of its 50th birthday this year, The Colonnade got an update. The idea was to adopt her brutal style, one Druker said he admired (“I’ve always loved City Hall, since the day I saw it.”) for revealing the original concrete.
“We exposed the concrete pillars inside, which kind of brought the outside in,” Drucker said. “While the inside is warm and cozy, there are no hard edges to it, we have those concrete pillars inside to remind people of the exterior design.”
The area around the rooftop pool, closed for the winter but due to reopen on Memorial Day, has new cabanas and a bar. Behind the scenes, there is a new HVAC system to improve ventilation amid COVID-19. Lucie Drink + Dine, which opened in the weeks before the pandemic, is back in business serving up $17 gourmet breakfast sandwiches in the morning and $38 of steaks for dinner.
“It’s hard for me to realize that 50 years, which seems like a long time if you haven’t lived it, goes by so fast,” Drucker said. “And being a fan of cities and a bit of an urbanization, seeing what happened to cities is inspiring.”
Business is not what it was before the pandemic. Like other Boston hotels, The Colonnade saw a slight increase in local leisure travel during the summer and fall, but business and conference travelers aren’t coming back, said David Colella, the hotel’s vice president and managing director and a 29-year veteran of The Colonnade. He said it was difficult.
“In a city like Boston, which is a big city with a number of our hotels, you have to count on a percentage of all those markets,” Colella said. “The good news is that we are getting there slowly. … we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel and seeing some demand for functional business.”
Colella said there are about 125 employees working at the hotel now. Some have been there for decades. Most have returned to work as many hours as they did before the pandemic, although some old employees have fallen back on work and taken fewer days per week. Colella said they can work enough hours to ensure their health insurance.
“There’s a lot of history here about the position, and you don’t see that much in the hotel business,” Colella said. “Usually there are a lot of sales. But when you see it, you see it with an employee who stays on the staff [in the same position] For a long time. Here, people rose.”
And now the hotel itself has risen too, with a nod to its past.
Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 617-929-2043.