Hotel Bentley in Alexandria could reopen in two months

The Hotel Bentley will reopen in March, owner Michael Jenkins hopes.

Jenkins bought the downtown Alexandria hotel in October 2012 and is overseeing a complete restoration and renovation of the historic property.

It has not been easy.

“It has been one thing after another,” said Jenkins, an entrepreneur noted for his investments in historic properties and in downtown. “You tear into one thing, and you see something else that needs to be done. We knew there were going to be surprises, and there have been, probably more than we expected. But we didn’t go blind into this thing. We knew it was a tremendous project.”

The Bentley had been closed for nearly eight years when Jenkins bought it. He is converting the seven-story tower portion of the property into condominiums. The original portion of the property will remain a hotel with 92-94 rooms.

Jenkins originally hoped to have the Bentley open for Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, but unforeseen repairs and replacements pushed things back.

Among the surprises was replacing the two main elevators in the lobby, which Jenkins hopes will be done by the end of this month. With those down, he said, it has been difficult to get equipment upstairs to refurbish the hotel rooms.

Another large project has been replacing multiple cooling units.

Jenkins said he has proceeded with the philosophy that “if you think it might cause you a problem in the future, go ahead and get it done right.”

The elevators, for instance, could have been made functional with some repair work, but he didn’t want to chance “someone coming in there, excited to be staying in the Bentley and getting hung up in one of those elevators.”

The cooling units take 10-12 weeks to come in on special order, so Jenkins elected to replace more than the one he had budgeted.

“You can’t go to Lowe’s and pick one of these things up,” he said. “Seeing how long it takes those to come in, I didn’t want one going out and having to wait that long.”

The downstairs portion of the property — including the lobby, restaurant, Mirror Room lounge and ballroom — is nearly complete.

The tower has been gutted for construction of the condos. Jenkins expects to have 21 units. He has been pleased with the interest so far — about 10 potential owners have qualified financially.

Work cleaning and restoring the exterior of the property is about halfway done, Jenkins said.

“We have a lot of building over there,” he said. “It covers a whole block. It’s about four acres of square footage. To get it right takes awhile, but I feel like the majority of it is done.”

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