Years ago, before I went to work for the Mayor and only months after moving back to Alexandria, I met Buddy Tudor in his office on Jackson Street. I’d known Mr. Tudor, who passed away last year, for most of my life, but still, as a kid who was fresh out of college, it was special to be able to meet with Mr. Tudor in a professional setting. His resume was wildly impressive, and so was his family’s legacy. His grandfather helped to build the Hotel Bentley, and nearly fifty years later, he purchased and renovated it, restoring its grandeur. There are buildings named after his family at both Louisiana College and, funny enough, Rice University, my alma mater.
Mr. Tudor told me, on more than one occasion, that before he was diagnosed with cancer, he had wanted to “build the world.” But he wisely limited the scope of his ambition and then beat back against his illness for nearly two decades. I was always deeply impressed with his humility, his honesty, and his commitment to Central Louisiana.
During our meeting, years ago, we discussed his lengthy relationship and love affair with the Hotel Bentley.
Every now and then, he’d send me personal letters about the Hotel Bentley and downtown development. He was always earnest and incredibly pragmatic. When we discussed the possibility of transforming the Bentley into a mixed-use facility, Mr. Tudor politely asserted his opposition. Its highest and best use, he said, was as a hotel, and he was right.
Fred Rosenfeld worked for Buddy Tudor at the Hotel Bentley. Currently, Mr. Rosenfeld operates a fine-dining restaurant and a hotel on federally-owned and publicly-subsidized property, the Bistro on the Bayou and the Parc England Hotel, both of which are located in England Air Park (formerly England Air Force Base). Currently, Mr. Rosenfeld also co-hosts a morning show on the local talk radio station, KSYL.
As many of you already know, I’m moving to Texas in less than two months in order to attend law school at SMU. So, forgive me in advance, but I don’t feel compelled to bite my tongue anymore.
Recently, on his radio show, Fred Rosenfeld has been publicly and blatantly lying about the Downtown Hotels Initiative. He’s lied about the process. He’s lied about the group selected to head up the development. He’s lied about the third-party studies that were conducted. And frankly, I personally believe, based on my own review of profit and loss statements and discussions with the late Mr. Tudor, that he’s also lied about the performance of the Hotel Bentley way back when he was its manager.
He’s not exactly a disinterested third party. He makes a living operating an up-scale boutique hotel on government property. A couple of years ago, when the Alexander Fulton went into bankruptcy, he was selected by Capital One Bank to manage the hotel for $25,000 a month. Shortly after the City took over operations, another operator was selected at a significantly reduced fee, less than half of what Mr. Rosenfeld was charging. Today, the City doesn’t even pay for third-party management.
How can I be so certain?
Because I co-authored the Request for Proposals for the Downtown Hotels Initiative. The document was created on my computer. All of the pictures were taken by my camera.
Because I sat in on nearly every single meeting and participated in hundreds of phone calls about the initiative.
What is he lying about, specifically?
a) That only one group, the group that was selected (Hospitality Initiatives Partnership), actually responded to the Request for Proposals.
Bald-faced lie. We fielded numerous responses, so many, in fact, that we had to create a short-list for interviews. Mr. Rosenfeld should seriously consider picking up the phone and calling HRI in New Orleans, Noble Hospitality in Kansas, and Dudley Ventures Development in Arizona, among others.
b) That Hospitality Initiatives Partnership has no experience in the hotel business. That they’re actually just a group of tax-sheltering architects, or something like that.
I wonder if Mr. Rosenfeld would ever say that directly to Paul Cooper, David Rau, and Roland Fontaine, the principals of H.I.P.
Paul Cooper may be young, but he’s already a veteran in the hotel business. David Rau has won national awards for his work on hotel projects. Roland Fontaine spent the majority of his professional career as an executive with Sheraton and Doubletree.
Before he moved to Louisiana, Mr. Rosenfeld was an attorney in California. Here’s what pops up when you search for his name on the California Bar Association’s website:
That’s right: Fred Rosenfeld was publicly removed from the practice of law, after previously being disciplined, suspended, and failing to pass the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Examination. The address listed, funny enough, is the Bistro on the Bayou, the only fine-dining restaurant in the State of Louisiana (as far as I know) that is housed in a building owned by the federal government.
Needless to say, I’d put the qualifications of the good folks at H.I.P. against Mr. Rosenfeld’s qualifications any day of the week.
c) That a third-party report concluded the hotels project would work because of Alexandria’s new airport terminal.
Mr. Rosenfeld’s made this claim repeatedly, and whenever he does, he sounds incredulous and exasperated. The only people who’d ever fly into Alexandria to stay at the Hotel Bentley, he’s suggested, would be the keynote speakers at a convention downtown. The City paid for this expensive study, according to him, but really, it was just a client-driven, ridiculous waste of money. I assume Mr. Rosenfeld is referring to the study conducted by the nationally-renowned firm, RKG Associates. I doubt Mr. Rosenfeld has actually read the report that he publicly lampoons and ridicules, because if he had, there’s no way he could believe it makes such an assertion. Our new airport terminal is value-added, but no one has ever suggested it will result in an exponential increase in tourism. (His criticism is particularly dubious and suspicious, considering he operates the one and only hotel near the airport).
d) That he helped to save the Hotel Bentley.
If you have the opportunity, drive by the Hotel Bentley. It’s been closed since 2004. It’s also worth noting: The profit and loss statements during Mr. Rosenfeld’s tenure as manager speak volumes.
e) That the City of Alexandria wants to spend millions of dollars making a “connection” between the Downtown Hotels complex and $12 million on a new parking garage.
Simply not true. The City would consider building a new town square downtown- a public park- and, if necessary, they’d also consider investing $7.5 million to build an income-producing, mixed-use building that would include parking.
Fair warning: I’m submitting a public records request to the England Authority.
The Bistro on the Bayou does this amazing tuna dish with lemon and Worcestershire.