Brisbane’s Malouf family is set to capitalise on the city’s appetite for new high-end hotels when its $100 million urban resort The Calile Hotel opens in Fortitude Valley later this year.
Although a number of top-end hotels are planned for Australia’s third-largest city – including the W-Hotel at North Quay in June, the Howard Smith Wharf development and the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf casino resort over the next few years – the decision of the Malouf family to reject the idea of building more apartments or commercial buildings and opt for a hotel in the heart of James Street will give them the jump on most of the competition.
Brothers Cal and Michael Malouf are behind The Calile, which will be managed and operated by TFE Hotels under their TFE Hotels Collection brand. The brand includes the more boutique offerings of Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra and the Gambaro Hotel on Caxton Street in Brisbane.
“The Brisbane hotel market is probably at its lowest ebb for a long time but there are green shoots appearing,” Cal Malouf said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.
“There are a lot of rooms coming on the market now but not a lot on the fringe; most are focused on the CBD. The Emporium Hotel opened [in Fortitude Valley] about 10 or 11 years ago and they had the market to themselves for years. Being where we are and the uniqueness of James Street and the Valley does assist us greatly,” he said.
The reclusive Malouf family already has a significant footprint in the up-market James Street precinct in Fortitude Valley, a few kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD, owning James Street Market and the retail shops next door where the 175-room Calile development is being built.
James Street is already Brisbane’s hottest retail strip with 130 specialty stores, including high-end boutiques such as Scanlan Theodore and Sass & Bide, as well as top restaurants and bars.
Michael Malouf said The Calile Hotel, designed by well-known Brisbane architects Richards & Spence, was aiming to capture a “South Beach, Miami feel” with a beachside resort in an urban context.
“We wanted to give people the Brisbane experience. We didn’t want carpet on the floor, dark panelling and dimly lit corridors with glowing room numbers. We wanted to embrace the subtropical climate. We wanted it to be bright. We wanted to do something different,” he said.
The 2700-square-metre site will include high-end retail shops and restaurants, a 26-metre pool, pool-side bar and restaurant as well as a day spa and function centre. Some of the retailers include fashion designer Dion Lee, Bassike and leisure brand Venroy as well as prominent Gold Coast restaurant owner Simon Gloftis, who will open a Hellinka restaurant adjacent to the pool deck.
Interest in the project – whose biggest selling point is that it is not in Brisbane’s CBD but only a five minute drive away – is already taking bookings for its opening in mid-September.
“It will be a fun place,” said Michael Malouf as he gave a tour of The Calile, but he was at pains to point out it wouldn’t be the home to pool parties.
While the Maloufs will be aiming for a high-end hotel, the average rooms will be priced at about $250 to $300 a room to make them attractive for interstate visitors wanting a city getaway as well as the corporate market. There will also be two penthouses available.
Cal Malouf said they had been mulling what to do with the site before deciding in 2014 to build a boutique hotel, aiming to make the most of Brisbane City Council’s moratorium on infrastructure charges for hotel developments. The ability to get more car parks on site as a hotel was also a factor.
“We looked at doing apartments but we’re basically not disciplined enough to do apartments because you have to do it to a formula, especially if it’s for the investor market,” he said.
“The other thing is this is a 1.8 hectare block and if we did apartments we’d have to strata title part of it off and have another 50-60 owners and we didn’t want to put up with the hassle. It’s hard enough now getting anything done in the early morning or at night.”
Most importantly, the Maloufs want the lobby bar and restaurants in The Calile Hotel – named after their great-grandfather who came to Australia in 1892 before creating his own retail empire in Brisbane – to be accessible to the general public.
“We want to make this the best retail street in Brisbane and one of the best in the country. This is just another ingredient of that story,” Michael Malouf said.