Sage puts its twist on extended-stay

When Sage Hospitality was presented with an opportunity in its hometown of Denver, Colorado, that it quickly realized was best suited for an extended-stay hotel, it decided to create a unique product with eclectic twists to differentiate from the established concepts in the marketplace. Enter, Catbird, which Sage President and CEO Walter Isenberg recently told HOTELS he has designs on growing as a new brand.

“River North (RiNo) Art District in Denver is an emerging neighborhood. There’s office and residential spaces, lots of nightlife, great restaurants and bars. We wanted to do something different and had this idea of an extended-stay property, but with a lifestyle component. We developed the brand with that thought,” Isenberg said.

The 165-key hotel blends hotel with home, with its patent-pending rooms with 10-foot-high ceilings, in-room kitchens stocked with high-end housewares and pre-measured spices, custom-made multi-functional furniture and ample storage space. Catbird’s rooms also include lofted beds and high-tech entertainment facilities like 4K ultra HD projectors that project onto screens that drop down in front of large windows. Each floor is also equipped with a water filling station (that dispenses still and sparkling water) and a complimentary laundry service.

Catbird, which opened on August 17 and is jointly owned by Sage, Walnut Development Partners and EXDO Development Group, is on a good track, Isenberg said. “It’s been open just one month [as of mid-September] but the early returns are very positive. We hope to grow the brand,” he said.

Elaborating on the brand’s expansion plans, Isenberg explained they are not looking to franchise and will instead partner with developers. “We are talking to some developmental partners and then we would own and manage.”

The patent-pending room concept has unique storage options.

Straightforward, simple

The hotel is straightforward and simple and feels like you’re in somebody’s home, Isenberg said. “There’s a robust grab-and-go service that you can bring up to your room. The food we serve on the rooftop bar is again pretty straightforward.”

The hotel’s rooftop houses The Red Barber, a communal bar retreat experience. Boasting a diverse food and beverage selection, the bar also features adaptable, flexible spaces like an event deck, amphitheater for live performances, a lawn with life-sized yard games, hot tubs for hotel guests and more.

The Catbird kitchen has a unique operation, which allows guests to walk up to the chef on the griddle to explain how they want their food.

One of the important aspects of the hotel’s management is the low employee count, Isenberg added. The hotel uses high-quality technology on The Red Barber, where guests can scan their QR code, place their order and pay for it from their phones. “We have bartenders and runners, but we don’t have a big waitstaff,” he explained.

Unique experiences

The hotel packs in an interesting feature — the Catbird Playroom, which is a gear locker stocked with items like cameras, scooters and bikes for guests to borrow and use. Repeat guests can access a guest storage area to store their most-used belongings, while guests accompanied with dogs can walk their pooches on a dog run.

Interestingly, the first property encompasses a 2,500 square foot historic house, originally built in 1890, which has been preserved as part of the hotel. The home, which is updated with high-design and high-touch facilities, is best suited for big groups looking to rent a big space for events, retreats or special occasions.

Design plays a key role in defining the hotel. While the guest rooms have been designed by the DLR Group, The Red Barber’s design was spearheaded by the Swan Dive Design Studio. Architecture for the full project was done by Shears Adkins Rockmore (SAR+) Architects. The artwork, which adorns the hotel’s common areas and rooms, has been curated by NINE dot ARTS.

The Catbird den on the lobby level

Team effort

Catbird marks Sage’s third new construction hotel opening so far in 2021, along with the opening of The Rally Hotel at McGregor Square in Denver and UNC Charlotte Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at Charlotte, North Carolina, in late-March.

Established in 1984, Sage Hospitality Group comprises four companies — Sage Hotel Management, Sage Restaurant Concepts, Sage Investments and Sage Studio. All four Sage group companies have played a key role in developing Catbird and continue to work on the hotel’s daily operations. Moving forward, Sage Studio will be closely involved in maintaining the Catbird brand and the guest experience.

Catbird adds to Sage Hotel Management’s portfolio of independent hotels, taking the count to 12 hotels across the U.S.

Sage Restaurant Concepts, which is responsible for overseeing The Red Barber, now has more than 30 restaurants and bars across 11 states.

Expansion plans

The early success of Catbird has resulted in Sage looking at more cities from this fall to expand and grow the brand, Isenberg says. The company, however, is ruling out franchise options.

“We would not franchise. We’re developers and are talking with some development partners. We would then own and manage the properties,” Isenberg said, adding that he hopes to replicate the Denver model in the future projects.

Sage raised equity through family offices for Catbird — a model that they prefer, he said. “In order to attract some more institutional capital, we probably need to have two or three of these going.”

Catbird, whose cost per key is in the mid-US$300,000s, has a projected ADR for Denver, Isenberg said, in the US$160 to US$170 range.

The Catbird rooftop includes an event deck, amphitheater for live performances, a lawn with life-sized yard games and hot tubs.

Measuring success

Catbird was built with the intention to “spice up” the extended-stay sector and add lifestyle and experiential elements. Differentiated product will emerge as the winner in terms of market share, Isenberg said.

Big brands like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG will tell you that their soft branded lifestyle type assets are really where the growth is. But that doesn’t mean consumers will stop staying at the Courtyard or the Hilton Garden Inn or Hyatt Place. Our industry has done a remarkable job of pivoting for the consumer, especially millennials, with latest trends, and at an accelerated pace that we haven’t seen before,” he added.

When Sage set out to make an innovative and unique extended-stay hotel by making bigger rooms than a conventional hotel room along with cooking amenities and efficient storage space, what they didn’t see coming was the gradual merging of apartment lending and extended-stay.

“The apartment buildings have super amenities — 5,000 square foot fitness center, resort style pool and bar. We have the best of both worlds. We don’t require guests to sign a lease but they enjoy lifestyle amenities,” Isenberg said.

Eventually, Catbird’s success can be measured in the next three years, Isenberg added. “If we had four to five of these in the ground or open, we would be very pleased.”