Progress Update on Virgin Hotels NOLA

Image Credit: Virgin Hotels

Image Credit: Virgin Hotels

Earlier this summer, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson took to The Big Easy to celebrate the groundbreaking of Virgin Hotels New Orleans. The occasion signified the brand’s 7th property in addition to the existing Chicago and San Francisco locations, the soon-to-open Virgin Hotels Dallas, and under construction Virgin Hotels New York, Las Vegas, Edinburgh, and Nashville (which CRE has the pleasure of working on as well).

Local New Orleans interior design firm Logan Killen Interiors are designing the hotel to incorporate a Southern residential feel while combining colorful, tropical architectural motifs with Virgin’s signature style of fun and smart. The hotel will feel more like one’s home away from home than another city hotel. Common spaces like the lush rooftop pool deck and the Jazz Age-inspired Commons Club inspire curiosity and exploration around every turn.

As the season comes to an end, we caught up with CRE project manager David Summerfield to get a progress update on the procurement process for Virgin Hotels New Orleans.

What is the inspiration behind the design of the hotel in your opinion?

The overall design celebrates the spirit, music, art and cuisine of New Orleans all while having a personalized touch by Virgin to create that unique and welcoming experience for guests.

Were there any brand standards that were followed during this project?

Like all of the other locations, Virgin Hotels New Orleans features the brand’s charismatic and contemporary style alongside ample communal space and a signature restaurant. Similar to Nashville, the new-build hotel will feature over 200 chambers, the brand’s take on guestrooms, the Commons Club, the brand’s flagship space, a rooftop pool and lounge, gym, and dedicated meeting and event spaces.

Can you breakdown the FF&E installation process?

The model room installation is in currently in progress. All model room FF&E is being delivered directly to the project site and stored until the construction is complete and ready to install the FF&E. All FF&E has gone through an approval process to ensure each piece is made to its specification. There is a team on site to handle all deliveries and review the condition of the items once they’ve been received. When the site is complete, all FF&E will be installed, and there will be a review of all FF&E to ensure each piece meets the brands standards.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing during this project?

The biggest challenge right now is the coordination of all the different FF&E pieces. Because the design has so many exceptional spaces, there are a great deal of unique items that need to be procured.

How are you working to overcome this challenge?

It is crucial to stay in constant communication with the entire project team to ensure everybody is on the same page and expectations are clear.

Is there anything else unique about the project that you’d like to mention?

There are many unique aspects of the project. I especially like that there are so many different spaces and areas to enjoy throughout the hotel. The roof deck is awesome in that it will allow guests to sit back and relax while overlooking the entire city of New Orleans. I’m really looking forward to the completion of this incredible hotel.

FF&E Installation Underway at Homewod Suites

Homewood Suites by Hilton Riverfront Wilmington DE

Homewood Suites by Hilton offers all the comforts of home, whether guests stay days, months or more with fully-equipped kitchens in every suite and accommodations for up to eight people. As FF&E installation is underway at the brand new Homewood Suites on the Wilmington, DE Riverfront, we sat down with CRE’s Procurement Manager Brenda Layne to learn more about what it takes to make a home at Homewood.

Can you breakdown the installation process?
Items are first delivered to the warehouse and are later delivered to the job site by floor. For example, floor 3 will be delivered and installed one day, while floor 4 will be delivered at a later time to avoid confusion and ensure proper placement. When items are delivered to the job site, the delivery occurs in the following order:

      1. Hangables - mirrors, headboards, TV panels, anything that is secured to the wall.

      2. Freestanding items

      3. Upholstered goods

      4. Window treatments

      5. Operational items - hangers, clocks, etc.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced during this project?

One challenge we ran into that was difficult in regards to budget was the current uncertainty of Chinese tariffs as many of our vendors have factories in China. It was unknown how tariffs would increase the overall budget. This caused us to evaluate a number of different variables when sourcing products to remain within budget constraints.

How did you manage to overcome this challenge?

We worked very hard to source products from other countries. When possible, we prefer to select products manufactured in the USA.

Do you have a favorite space or fixture from the project?

The lobby and outdoor areas are my favorite spaces from the project. It takes the inspiration behind the design and brings it full circle. Specifically, I enjoy the artwork in the public spaces of the hotel, which do a great job of supporting the overall concept.

The Making of Makers Alley

Image Credit:    Town Square Delaware

Image Credit: Town Square Delaware

Makers Alley is a brand new bar coming soon to Downtown Wilmington, DE - complete with a classic Airstream travel trailer turned food truck. City living and the inevitable quest for hidden places and found spaces were the inspirations for Makers Alley.

Makers Alley Wilmington DE FF&E Installation

“We wanted it to feel like an off-the-beaten-path kind of place. The design included removing two floors and creating a triple height volume for the space. It’s just flooded with light,” said Sarah Lamb, Vice President of Design and Marketing for The Buccini/Pollin Group.

Once a carpenter’s workshop, the industrial design pays tribute to the makers that formerly inhabited the space, dating back to the late 1800s. The Edison light bulbs, copper piping, original wood beams, and exposed duct work honor the history of the space. While the fire pits, hammocks, and landscaping (literally) breath new life into the forgotten and dilapidated building.

While the makers of the space add the finishing touches, we caught up with CRE procurement specialist, Zach Shope, to breakdown the process behind the making of Makers Alley.

How did you oversee the FF&E installation to ensure client satisfaction?

I was in constant communication with the general contractor at Makers Alley to coordinate the shipping, delivery, storage, installation, and inspection of items to confirm the quality and condition of the items. I also supplied detailed information on the care and installation of products.

What was the biggest challenge you experienced during this project?

Working with the general contractor to ensure all of the gas-powered items, like the fire pit and heat lamps, met the installation requirement. In the end, the gas-powered items were installed safely within the appropriate time frame, but securing the instructions was a difficult process.

Makers Alley Wilmington DE FF&E Procurement

Do you have a favorite space or fixture from the project?

I like the gas fire pit that’s a focal point in the garden area. It has iridescent glass rocks in the middle and easily ignites with an electric push button.

Is there anything else unique about the project that you’d like to mention?

The majority, if not all, of the lighting was sourced and imported internationally. The fixtures are all extremely unique and add to the cool “vibe” of the space.

The Westin Washington National Harbor Hotel Gets a Sophisticated Makeover

Featuring a breathtaking view of the Potomac River from the heart of an exciting entertainment and dining district, The Westin Washington National Harbor offers guests a one-of-a- kind experience to explore the greater Washington, D.C. area. Each of the hotel’s 195 guestrooms and suites has been refreshed, featuring custom blackout draperies, new bedding, new wall coverings, and state-of-the-art 55” inch Guest Room Entertainment TVs so that guests can easily stream their favorite shows from their subscription services.

Public spaces have been updated with a multi-use Lobby Bar that features smart seating with built in USB and charging outlets, as well as new 55” televisions. The Business Center is upgraded with new technology and additional Internet bandwidth, as well as communal seating with USB charging ports and outlets. For recreation there is a new state-of-the-art workout room and a newly redesigned indoor swimming pool.

Virgin Hotels New Orleans Breaks Ground

virgin_102 (L to R) Allie Hope from Virgin Hotels, Developer Dave Pollin, Richard Branson, Nola Mayor LaToya Cantrell.JPG
Virgin Hotel New Orleans Procurment

Virgin Hotels, the lifestyle hotel brand by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, marks a new milestone as Virgin Hotels breaks ground with The Buccini/Pollin Group on Virgin Hotels New Orleans. The groundbreaking ceremony marks Virgin Hotels’ seventh property, behind the current locations open in Chicago and San Francisco, the soon-to-open Virgin Hotels Dallas, and under construction Virgin Hotels Nashville, Virgin Hotels New York, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. Virgin Hotels New Orleans is slated to open its doors in 2021.

“I’m incredibly happy to announce that Virgin will now have a home at Virgin Hotels New Orleans, a home for both visitors and locals alike,” said Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson. “It’s going to have all the signature offerings of our hotels including the exceptional customer experience that Virgin is known for. New Orleans is a truly special city and a melting pot of cultures and traditions. We will certainly make sure to celebrate the local character of The Big Easy throughout our hotel. I’m very much looking forward to the rise of Virgin Hotels New Orleans in 2021.”

“We’ve had our eyes on New Orleans for a while, so we’re thrilled to be kicking off construction today,” commented Virgin Hotels CEO Raul Leal. “We were extremely diligent in ensuring we tapped the right partners to develop, design and curate the best hotel product for this extraordinary market. Today’s groundbreaking means we are one step closer to seeing our vision come to life!”

Virgin Hotels New Orleans FF&E

Located in the Warehouse District at 550 Baronne Street, Virgin Hotels New Orleans sits directly next to the Central Business District close to a growing number of new restaurants, galleries and shops. The property will feature over 200 chambers, multiple dining and drinking outlets such as the brand’s signature Commons Club and the recently announced Funny Library Coffee Shop, a rooftop pool and lounge, gym and dedicated meetings and event spaces. Virgin Hotels New Orleans will be completed by Mathes Brierre Architects, CallisonRTKL Architects, and Broadmoor Construction and will be managed by Virgin Hotels.

Virgin Hotel New Orleans Furniture Procurement

Local New Orleans interior design firm Logan Killen Interiors are designing the hotel to incorporate a Southern residential feel while combining colorful, tropical architectural motifs with Virgin’s signature style of fun and smart. The hotel will feel more like one’s home away from home than another city hotel. Common spaces like the lush rooftop pool deck and the Jazz Age-inspired Commons Club inspire curiosity and exploration around every turn.

To commemorate the groundbreaking, Virgin Hotels in conjunction with The Buccini/Pollin Group hosted key members of each group for an intimate ceremony. During the event, members of the Virgin Hotels development team took the first shovels to the ground at the future hotel site. Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Hotels Chief Development Officer Allie Hope offered remarks, followed by a brief press Q&A and photo opportunity. Also, on site was brand partner Laughing Man® Coffee Company offering refreshments for guests.

The brand’s second property, Virgin Hotels San Francisco, opened earlier this year in SoMa (South of Market) just steps from Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Center. The brand’s first hotel, Virgin Hotels Chicago, opened in 2015. Virgin Hotels continues to explore cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Austin, Seattle, Washington DC, and London; all locations where they are pursuing hotel and office conversions and ground-up development.

As CRE Turns 3, Co-Founder Michelle Schwandt Reflects on Past, Present & Future


Three years goes by in the blink of an eye. 15 hospitality projects (and counting), 2 restaurants and 2 multi-residential projects….the journey has been nothing short of amazing. Our most memorable projects include Renaissance Philadelphia, The Hotel du Pont, ARC.The Hotel, Canopy Pike & Rose and The National.  These projects challenged us to think differently, think smarter and apply innovative solutions to meet the needs of our Clients. But more amazing than the projects are the people we work with every day – our hospitality associates at BPGS, architects, interior designers and vendors. We thank you for your professionalism and steadfast commitment to each and every project – and for making our work enjoyable!

To our Clients  - thank you for entrusting your projects with CRE. As we look to the future, CRE remains focused on three priorities: service, schedule and budget. CRE is committed to continuously evaluating our processes and relationships to ensure these priorities are always at the forefront of our work.

And finally, to the team at CRE – I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people.  Our team is enriched by your commitment to your work and to the relationships you’ve built with each other – because of you we’ve grown as individuals and as a company. Thank you for 3 years and cheers to a bright future ahead!

- Michelle Schwandt, Co-Founder & Managing Director

DE.CO Serves Up Style at Wilmington's Newest Food Hall

DE.CO, short for Delaware Collective, is a place for all of Wilmington to come together over great food and drink in the state's first chef-driven food hall. Each of the food hall’s eight chefs operate from one of the kitchens within the food hall, and guests order directly from whichever stall sparks their fancy. Diners then enjoy their food together at one of many comfortable tables throughout the space or at the soaring atrium bar, serving cocktails, wine and beer. The modern-deco design evokes the grand past of the DuPont Building and transitions it into a contemporary aesthetic, both throughout the comfortable-yet-spacious food hall and in an expansive private event space. 

Impressive Amenities Draw Residents to The National

On the site previously occupied by the iconic National Products building in Old City Philadelphia, The National thoughtfully draws from its mid-century roots while offering contemporary amenities and luxurious interiors that today’s modern renters are seeking. Amenities at The National are designed to impress at every corner, including a two-story clubhouse with a demonstration kitchen, convenient pet washing station, a full-service fitness center managed by Level 1 Fitness, and rooftop deck, complete with an outdoor kitchen and fireplace, for residents to enjoy the dramatic views of both Center City and the Delaware River.

#ThoughtfullyLocal: Canopy by Hilton hotels highlight local neighborhoods through thoughtful design

Canopy by Hilton is the energizing, new hotel in the neighborhood offering simple guest-directed service, thoughtful local choices, and surprisingly comfortable spaces, so guests simply feel better going forward. Each property is designed as a natural extension of its neighborhood, with local design, food and drink, and delivers a fresh approach to hospitality and the guest experience. Canopy by Hilton is the lifestyle hotel brand of Hilton Worldwide.

We’ve had the pleasure of working on two Canopy by Hilton hotels this year, one near Washington D.C. in Bethesda North, MD and the other in Portland, OR. With only five Canopy by Hilton branches open in the United States, we are thrilled to help bring these exciting hotels to new markets.

Canopy by Hilton Washington D.C. Bethesda North

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

As the second Canopy by Hilton location in the United States, Canopy by Hilton Washington D.C. Bethesda North incorporates design staples of the Canopy by Hilton brand, including residential-style guestrooms with a locally interpreted Canopy above the bed and open closets. This is one of the first MARKZEFF-designed locations to open with interiors that fuse authentic materials, such as rough-hewn oak wood walls, concrete floors, and locally inspired artwork, furnishings, and accessories. Mark Zeff is also the firm that collaborated with Hilton’s team to initially create Canopy’s interior design ethos at the inception of the brand.

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

The entrance of the 177-room hotel features two impressive design elements: a two-story, living moss wall that from a distance looks like a map of the area and a massive chandelier draped with opaque acrylic reproductions of pages from a 1933 National Geographic Magazine. An early resident of the area, Gilbert Grosvenor (a nearby Metro stop, Grosvenor, bears his name) was the editor of that 1933 issue, dedicated to the birds of his Bethesda country home.

The feeling of the hotel lobby seating area is electric and eclectic. Its materials consist of velvet and leather, glass and wood. A combination of enveloping couches and hard surface chairs creates a comfortable cross between shabby chic and industrial. The lobby area also includes 48 colorful pop art portraits of other local notables

Floors throughout are high gloss, painted concrete with bright area rugs, and sliding barn doors define the bathroom in an homage to the area’s farming roots.

Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

True to theme, Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District incorporates the revitalized industrial neighborhood and its indie boutiques, art galleries, microbreweries, and green spaces throughout the hotel, designed by locally based firm ZGF Architects and New York-based interior designer MARKZEFF.

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

Image Courtesy of Canopy by Hilton

The 153-room hotel features industrial finishes such as hot rolled steel metal beams, brick walls and concrete floors in parts of the lobby, café & reception area. The check-in desk, as well as other furniture pieces, are fabricated by local vendors. Throw pillows throughout the hotel feature fabric from Pendleton Woolen Mills, a sixth-generation family-owned Portland business.The guest rooms also feature an interpretation of a “canopy,” which extends over the front of the bed and is made of timber resembling the Oregon state tree, a Douglas Fir, creating a direct connection to the beauty and natural wonder of the Pacific Northwest.

Even the hotel’s exterior acts as a symbolic bridge between the Pearl District’s old and new structures, thoughtfully incorporating materials that reflect and complement the neighborhood’s past and future. The oiled bronze-inspired facade of the building – which is an art installation itself – changes its golden hue in synchronicity with the passing phases of daylight. Casement windows at street level allow activities in the hotel to carry out onto the sidewalks of Glisan Street, creating outdoor seating and an inviting setting for both guests and passersby.

Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District’s art curator, Elizabeth Leach of Elizabeth Leach Gallery located next door to the hotel, selects works from local artists to showcase around the hotel in both the property’s permanent and rotating art collections.

CRE Heads to Boutique Design New York


Now in its ninth year, Boutique Design New York (BDNY) is the leading trade fair and conference for hospitality design professionals.  The event brings in over 8,000 Interior Designers, Architects, Purchasing Agents and Owners/Developers over a two-day period each November.

Continue reading to hear what our very own David Summerfield, Procurement Specialist, had to say about the conference:

“BDNY was an experience to remember. The thousands of attendees made it possible to create a memorable show. During the show, CRE took the time to meet with many of the vendors we consistently work with to create and establish those long-term relationships. There were many custom pieces on display worth noting. These custom pieces were one of a kind as they all had their own personal touch to separate themselves from the other competition. The capability to utilize technology and sync it with a smart phone or tablet was rather interesting and unique. The visit to BDNY opened up an array of contacts to utilize and consider for the many projects we procure.”

CRE team participates in Day of Service


Christina River Exchange believes one of our most important responsibilities is giving back to the community where we live and work. Through charitable giving and volunteer service, we strive to be a champion for our underserved communities.

Every year our affiliate company, The Buccini/Pollin Group, takes an entire day to give back to the local community through volunteer services by each associate. We were happy join BPG in their efforts this year and participate in the Day of Service at the Delaware Humane Association.

The Delaware Humane Association is Delaware’s premiere nonprofit no kill animal care and adoption center committed to providing for the needs of homeless and owned dogs and cats in our community.

Meet our summer intern, Madison Cann!


We were thrilled to welcome Madison Cann, a senior at the University of Delaware, to our team this past summer. With a background in purchasing, Madison was a great asset to our team and we truly appreciate all of her hard work!

Read our interview with Madison below to hear what she had to say about her experience working for Christina River Exchange.

Can you provide a little background information on what you are going to school for and when you are expected to graduate?

“As a senior at University of Delaware, I'm a Public Policy major and a Women & Gender studies minor. A lot of what I learn is about economic, social, and political structures/institutions and how individuals interact with them. Most of my work tends to be reading and writing, which has definitely helped me gain skills that are incredibly valuable for my future.”

What would be your dream job after graduation?

“Thinking about my post-grad career is still pretty crazy! My passions can have various career paths, so it's been hard to try to narrow down exactly what I'd like to do. I really want to pursue political advocacy, whether that be in a government position or a non-profit. I'm also fairly certain I want to do the peace corp in a couple years, and I also want to get a higher level degree. So, that question is pretty hard because I feel like I have a million answers for it!”

 What do you feel you learned the most during your time at CRE? Was there anything that surprised you?

“Working at CRE was really an amazing experience. With my previous studies and internships, I had never really gotten a chance to look at the implications of business and finance. However, getting to see how to navigate this was a really big eye-opener. It made me realize that having a good understanding of things like cost-benefit analysis and utilization of resources is fundamentally helpful no matter what career I pursue.”

What was your favorite moment while interning with CRE?

“I would say my favorite moment at CRE was when I got to lead a meeting with the CRE team about re-inventing our proposals and marketing. With my public policy background, I was really thrilled when my boss, Michelle, gave me the task of updating our proposal document and some of our marketing strategy. I have a passion for writing and for making an intended message accessible for a reader, so this project was really exciting for me. After working for weeks on the project, I got to bring together the entire CRE team and discuss what I had done and work with them about their collective ideas as well. For most internships, you end up doing a lot of mundane and less important tasks, but I feel like Michelle and the team really trusted me and my work. It was really amazing to be treated like a peer and less like a student. I feel so lucky that I got to work with such an amazing team all summer, and that experience of leading the meeting is one I'll remember forever.”

Virgin Hotels coming to Nashville & New Orleans

Richard Branson brings the iconic Virgin brand into new markets around the world to shake up the status quo. Virgin Hotels is positioned as the much-needed bridge between the current landscape of lifestyle and legacy hotels. With a focus on the fantastic, the global hotel lifestyle brand combines comfort and innovation with a unique mix of cultural influences, from fashion to music and everything in between.

Once ready for business, Virgin Hotels properties will feature the brand’s charismatic and contemporary style alongside innovative functionality, ample communal space and a signature restaurant, all wrapped in an efficient, personalized experience.

Christina River Exchange is thrilled to be able to assist in bringing this new hotel experience to two locations: Nashville and New Orleans!


Virgin Hotels Nashville

Located in the historic Music Row area of the city, Virgin Hotels Nashville will deliver a one-of-a-kind hotel experience. The hotel will feature 240 chambers, the brand’s take on guestrooms, which will include both “The Dressing Room” featuring a full vanity, make-up desk and well-lit mirror, an extra-large shower with a bench, and his and hers closets designed by Poliform®, and “The Lounge”, which consists of Virgin’s patented designed bed, ideal for working, recharging, wellness and playing.

Virgin Nashville will also include multiple dining and drinking outlets such as the brand's signature Commons Club, a rooftop and pool, and - fitting for Music City - a speakeasy.

The design for Virgin Nashville is inspired by local musical influences and will maintain the brand’s innovative style.

Judi Crook, Interior Designer for MARKZEFF, says “Virgin Nashville’s design fuses modern industrial with a sleek, playful, and sophisticated style, aiming to create a unique and timeless design in which guests are sure to find endless visual variety and luxurious comfort at every moment.”

Virgin Hotels Nashville is expected to open in 2019.


Virgin Hotels New Orleans

Virgin Hotels New Orleans is situated in the city’s Warehouse District. The up-and-coming area sits directly next to the Central Business District and is home to a growing number of new restaurants, galleries and shops. Similar to Nashville, the new-build hotel will feature 225 chambers, the brand’s flagship space, Commons Club, a rooftop pool and lounge, gym, and dedicated meeting and event spaces.

The hotel’s design concept is to create a unique and immersive experience for guests, mirroring the history, food and music in New Orleans. Virgin Hotels’ Vice President of Design Teddy Mayer has tapped a local design firm, Logan Killen Interiors, to bring an authentic New Orleans flair to the project.

Virgin Hotels New Orleans is expected to open in 2020.