The 1,781-room Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, a classic midtown skyscraper, is in the midst of a $150 million makeover. And not a moment too soon from what we saw on a recent visit.
You need to think back to Mad Men days to imagine this 51-story behemoth as special, but it was. At 501 feet, it was one of the 100 tallest hotels in the world when it opened in 1962 as the Americana and loomed over its competitors as the city’s loftiest concrete-frame building of its day.
Sporting a colossal bent slab structure, it flaunted horizontal stripes of steel-frame windows and a yellow glazed brick facing, as modern and evocative as a Pan Am jet or a Cadillac’s tail fins. Never mind Don Draper; picture DickenLiz sweeping through its portals for a press conference (we doubt they’d have stayed here, even then).
Half a century later the hotel seems stuck in the 80s, or 90s, or some lost decade of hotel hell. It isn’t threadbare or poorly maintained, just sadly outdated. The wide lobby, culminating in two massive wood-paneled counters, check-in on one side, concierge on the other, calls to mind an airline terminal, albeit one with carpeting and wood paneling. The ambiance was rush hour at Grand Central: masses of sailors, flight crews, tourists in jeans and a few suits pulling wheelies. And what was up with the outmoded red-and-white stripe seating area opposite the spruced up computer lounge and the efficient-looking grab-and-go?
Though not scary or hopelessly outmoded like the Hotel Pennsylvania, the Sheraton flaunts earmarks of better days long gone, like the empty jewelry store or the shoe-shine chair next to a bank of deserted pay phones. Once home to five restaurants, just two survive – one offering a breakfast buffet, the other, opening off the lobby, serving casual meals and drinks into the night.
So we eagerly await what’s promised. According to the press release, renovated rooms will be larger in size with minibars and coffee makers built into the wall, WiFi, wall-mounted flatpanel TVs, updated climate control systems and fresh bathrooms, some with walk-in showers. Cool detail: some rooms will feature a chaise lounge chair that converts into a bed.
The first wave of rooms, including 32 suites, is planned for completion next month. Remaining rooms will be renovated between December 2011 and April 2012.
And how are conditions while grand-scale construction goes on? A few guests have complained about noise and dust on Trip Advisor. Nosing around on a high floor, we encountered an open door to a dismantled room in the throes of construction (left). Not shocking in itself, but as we left we encountered guests with suitcases entering the room next door. Still, it’s a big place. If you plan to stay anytime soon, you know what to request.
We understand the appeal of places that provide a uniform level of service with terrific beds and no surprises or glitches. That’s a potent form of comfort. We expect nothing less from the renovated Sheraton New York. Stay tuned.