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Bank of America's New Ritz-Carlton

Bank of America's first hotel, an 18-story Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, N.C., is slated to open in October. According to a few reports, the hotel will also be built green -- it's planned to be gold-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It's also Charlotte's first five-star hotel and built just across the street from Bank of America headquarters.

The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte at Bank of America Center cost BofA approximately $60 million in 2005 and was not bought or paid for with its recent $45 billion in government funds, bank officials said, which it plans to pay soon. The hotel is being built in conjunction with the bank's new 32-floor office tower with an estimated price tag of $450 million.

Is this a case of corporate greed gone awry? While some posts to the above articles would agree, I think the project was done with the intention of enhancing Bank of America's image. In 2005, the bank was flying high (which bank or loan officer wasn't?) and what better way to celebrate it than rehabbing and remodeling a five-star hotel that would bear its name along with a world-renowned luxury brand? Plus, the hotel was just across the street from its headquarters.

Think about what a presence that would be for visiting vendors or hopeful executive applicants. I can even see why the bank wanted its taxes earmarked for future cultural products in Charlotte -- it would only make the company look even better in their hometown.

While my views on the corporate bailout are probably well-known -- I don't think these two subjects are comparable. While the ethics of a bank building and owning a hotel may be questionable, it doesn't look like taxpayer money was used to procure the hotel or redesign it. So, perhaps the critics should focus instead on whether or not Bank of America pays its $45 billion TARP tab.
Photo of the The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte at Bank of America Center under construction courtesy of Hendrix-Mitchener Properties