On Arroyo Street: there is a new luxury hotel in Buenos Aires in a historic building

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The Mihanovich Building, where the once elegant Sofitel hotel once operated, will reopen its doors in January as a new luxury hotel: Casa Lucía.

For 15 years, the iconic Sofitel hotel stood as a benchmark of elegance and luxury in the Retiro neighbourhood. On the imposing Arroyo Street, full of art galleries, design shops, restaurants, award-winning bars and embassies, this iconic establishment marked its presence in one of the most impressive historical buildings in the city.

After the Cabezas family failed to reach an agreement with the owners of the Mihanovich Building, initially commissioned by businessman Nicolás Mihanovich from the builders of the Bencich Palace, the hotel permanently closed its doors in 2017 after 15 years of operation.

Today, after these years of uncertainty about the fate that would be given to this historic building, the Spanish chain Único Hotels reached an agreement with the Bencich family (owners of the building since 1929 when Mihanovich died) to rent the building for the next two decades.

With this partnership, and after a year of work, they are preparing to open a five-star hotel on Arroyo Street in January 2024. “I am an admirer of the vitality, elegance and creativity of Buenos Aires and of the enormous natural attractions of Argentina, so when two good friends proposed this opportunity in one of the best streets in the city, the offer was irresistible,” says Pau Guardans I Cambó, General Director of Unique Hotels.

“Argentina has always amazed me because it is a country that has it all: mountains, oceans, deserts and ice and because it is the beloved home of much of my family. Logically, any investment must respond to a well-designed business plan (and this has been the case). In life, sometimes luck favours, and you can start a business in an environment where enthusiasm accompanies,” says the Catalan.

Único Hotels was born in Madrid in 2004 and operates half a dozen luxury establishments in Madrid, Barcelona and the Spanish Costa Brava. The company that will be in charge of the hotel in Buenos Aires is made up of Guardians i Cambó together with two friends and local partners, the real estate developer Diego Mazer and the hotel operator Marcelo Wolodarsky, and operates under the name of Hotel Arroyo SA.

What will work in the ex-Sofitel Hotel?

Called Casa Lucia, the hotel marks the chain’s first venture outside of Spain. “ Choosing a name is never easy. We wanted to convey two main ideas: offer guests a closer, modern and informal luxury experience and highlight our local commitment to the destination’s attractions. We chose an Argentine female name as a tribute to the country’s women,” explains Guardians i Cambó.

Casa Lucia will operate like the former Sofitel in the Mihanovich Building, which was once known as the tallest construction in Latin America. Designed to offer spectacular views of the Río de la Plata, it was often compared to a lighthouse intended to welcome those arriving in Buenos Aires for the first time.

Regarding the negotiation for the building, Guardians i Cambó shares that the process is not simple. “It was necessary to bring positions closer and seek long-term agreements, but all of us who were involved were clear that we were facing a very special adventure: returning the shine and renewed life to an iconic building that is almost 100 years old,” mentions the Catalan.

According to the hotel chain owner, the most challenging task to date was, without a doubt, carrying out “ such an ambitious renovation in such a tight deadline .” At the same time, it highlights the country’s complex current situation, characterised by supply and import challenges. “For the Unico Hotels team involved, taking on this project as locals has been an intense experience,” says the owner.

The remodelling, led by the firm Torrado Arquitectos of Buenos Aires and the interior design team of Fernanda Schuch Studios, lasted over a year and addressed highly demanding aspects in terms of facilities, such as elevators, air conditioning systems, lighting and kitchens. In addition, a complete redefinition of spaces, their uses and all decoration was carried out. However, Guardians I Cambó He is grateful for having had an “invaluable advantage” such as the outstanding architectural structure of the building.

Spanish chain and Buenos Aires experience

The purpose of the hotel is evident: to provide an authentically Argentine experience in tune with the essence of Buenos Aires. To achieve this, they chose to incorporate a diversity of elements made by local artisans, such as the lamps by Christián Mohaded, the tapestries by Cristina Codern, a collection of photographs by Ricardo Piñeiro (the former model manager who died today), and a featured mural at the main entrance created by local artist Cristina Codern.

“For us, the commitment to local is not simply an additional layer in the hotel; It is an integral part of your DNA. We seek to create a hotel space open to the city, where the people of Buenos Aires adopt it as their own. It has a dynamic cultural agenda that promotes interaction between visitors and residents,” explains the Catalan.

In the gastronomic field, Casa Lucia looks forward to revealing its new concept: its own restaurant inspired by authentic Argentine flavours, “La Cantina”, which will be located in a bright dining room and six rooms with private service and natural light. Additionally, adjacent will be “Le Club Bacan”, a cocktail bar open to the local public that will offer a selection of more than 400 Argentine wine labels. The only Spanish nod will be the “tapas” proposal presented at the bar, with typical dishes from almost all areas of Spain.

Casa Lucía will offer 142 rooms and suites, almost the same as the Sofitel, many of which have balconies equipped with showers, lounge chairs and outdoor tables. In addition, it will have a spa that will include three treatment cabins, a gym and a 16-meter heated pool, surrounded by mirrors and enhanced with the photographic work of artist Marc Zimmerman.

Nightly rates will start at US$670. In the case of paying with local currency, the official exchange rate will be applied, while foreigners who pay in dollars by card will be exempt from paying VAT.

“Argentina is a destination with enormous attractiveness that has yet to be discovered. There is still much to do. If things are done well, tourism can be a significant development driver for the country, as it was for Spain. But key aspects such as visitor safety or internal air connections must be well taken care of,” reflects Guardians i Cambó.

Although it hopes to open its doors in January 2024, the hotel does not have a planned opening. “Maybe in a few months, we will hold an event to celebrate the warm welcome that the country is giving us, but we will do it gradually,” adds the owner. “With humility, we seek to make our way in the luxury offering among the best hotels in Buenos Aires. We know this will take time, but we have all the necessary pieces, a large dose of enthusiasm and some experience,” he concludes.

Source: La Nacion

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