By Terry Trucco
Some renovations are the hospitality equivalent of an out-patient procedure – new bed dressings, curtains, carpeting and TVs. Others are tantamount to a quadruple bypass — deep-dish metamorphoses that entail messy stuff, like ripping out showers, furnishings and climate systems.
Just shy of its 50th birthday the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, a member of the second camp, is in the latter stages of “the largest renovation project in the history of the hotel,” says Mark Sanders, general manager.
The bustling 1,781-room midtown behemoth merited an update.The hotel opened in 1962 as the Americana, then city’s tallest concrete-fame structure and still one of the 100 tallest hotels in the world. One of 250 hotels designed by architect Morris
Lapidus, best known for Miami’s resort-iconic Fontainbleu hotel, it flaunted a brash, bent slab façade and, with five restaurants, ten ballrooms and an air of sleek, no-frills modernity, embodied the jet-set ethos of the 60s. It became a Sheraton in 1979.
Last week, the Sheraton announced the completion of 1,080 renovated guest rooms. That leaves more than 600 to go – the equivalent of three average-size New York hotels. But with much of the heavy lifting done, the hotel celebrated with victory-lap tours showing what $150 million can buy. Here’s what we saw.
The Rooms They’re not cutting edge, but we doubt they are meant to be. Instead, the new rooms look contemporary, comfortable and smart. You can go over a business plan seated in the wheeled leather chair at the stone-covered credenza that doubles as a desk (a wall-mounted flatpanel TV hangs above).
Or curl up with a Kindle on the chaise by the window, a clever alternative to a club chair that can become an extra bed. If you’re on a high floor, the short but sweeping 1960s windows may overlook the Hudson River or Central Park. (If you face a boring building, shut the new, striped floor-to-ceiling curtains.)
The renovated rooms owe their spacious look to a new, individualized climate control system that jettisoned the space-eating, below-the-window units. Coordinated with a RFID lock system, room temperature automatically shifts to an energy-saving control temp when a guest leaves the room. Coolest detail: lamp bases are outfitted with outlets so you don’t have to get on your hands and knees to plug in a charger.
Bathrooms are still small — this is a 60s building — but look up-to-date, with textured,stone-colored wallcoverings, sleek wash stands and new floors covered in large tiles. “You see fewer grout lines,” says Sanders, referring to the wild cross-hatchings of grout in the previous mini-tile floor.
“The aim was timeless design so rooms will feel up-to-date in five years,” says John Paul Pederson, a designer with Wilson Associates, which devised the interiors. For an urban vibe, the designers choose neutral colors, black and silver inflections, a pop of lavender and stylized photos of New York. Instead of a single image, a suite of four small photos in matching frames hang together. “A collection looks more residential,” Pederson says.
The biggest challenge? Designing custom furniture that looks good in rooms of varying sizes and shapes. “We couldn’t order up 1,700 of the same size dresser,” he says.
The Conference Room Conference rooms rarely pump our pulse, but the Cisco TelePresence Suite, a video-conferencing room on steroids, is cool. Eight people can gather round a large table in a conference room. The away team is beamed in on an enormous, high-definition screen that feels like the ultimate Skype. To date, 33 conference rooms worldwide are equipped with TelePresence, a number that’s expected to reach 45 to 50 by the year’s end. So is travel dead? Not at all, Sanders predicts. “But we need to embrace the technology.”
The Presidential Suite Every suite in the hotel was reconfigured and redesigned but none as radically as the Presidential, a 2,400 square-foot duplex on a high floor. Out went the dark, Ralph Lauren blue walls. In came light, upbeat neutrals with bursts of cream, silver and plum and flashy details like a fleet of induction cooktops on the dining room credenza, multiple bedrooms, an enormous dressing room and, in the master bath, three flatpanel TVs. Who checks in here? So far, no one, says Sander. The guest list will consist mainly of people the hotel wants to court for business purposes, a sort of Lincoln Bedroom for Sheraton.
If you plan to stay On a budget? Unrenovated rooms typically cost $30 to $50 less and, if the room we saw is an indicator, are clean but lack panache. Final renovation begins in December. A buffer floor will separate construction floors from rooms in use. To guarantee a renovated room, ask for a Superior or Club level room; the latter generally cost $50 to $80 more than an unrenovated traditional room.