At the end of last year, Grand Hyatt New York unveiled its $130 million top-to-bottom renovation, which included 1,306 redesigned guestrooms, “larger-than-life” installations by acclaimed sculptor Jaume Plesna, and the new Grand Club lounge featuring outdoor space. General Manager Mark Pardue recently spoke with Lodging Managing Editor Megan Sullivan about the goals, challenges, and results of the renovation.
Megan Sullivan: You became general manager of the Grand Hyatt New York as the property embarked on the final phase of its $130 million renovation. What challenges did you face coming on board during a period of major transition, and how did you guide the transformation of the property?
Mark Pardue: Grand Hyatt New York’s $130 million multi-phased, floor-to-ceiling renovation began in March 2010 and was completed in December 2011. The initial phase included new food and beverage options including New York Central, a 6,000-square-foot lounge, restaurant, and wine gallery; and Market, an innovative 24-hour “grab and go” outlet located off of the main lobby. Phase two included multiple meeting and event spaces including the new Gallery on Lex. The final phase included the completion of our 1,306 meticulously redesigned guestrooms and suites, our transformed lobby and mezzanine, and the addition of The Grand Club, a residential-style gathering spot for guests.
When we embarked on this renovation, we were aware that we would face challenges—a $130 million revitalization of a grand dame hotel is no small feat. And with 138 different room configurations, we certainly had our work cut out for us. Our biggest challenge was having to work on this project in multiple phases. A revitalization of this caliber takes time and we had to introduce guests to each new, exciting element—including new rooms, event spaces, and food and beverage options—one-by-one. However, because each area of the property was tackled individually, construction was mostly concealed and we therefore were able to keep disruption to guests at a minimum.
MS: What were the main goals behind the renovation and how are they being achieved so far?
MP: Our main goal of the $130 million renovation was to re-affirm our position as one of the most desirable venues in Manhattan. We want guests to walk into Grand Hyatt New York and immediately be taken by the hotel’s dramatic new design. We have achieved this by working with internationally renowned artists and designers who created a design aesthetic that is both sophisticated and functional. Each guestroom and suite evokes the mood of a sleek and modern Manhattan residence—the environments are calming, yet functional for both business and leisure travelers. Our lobby is large, but inviting. Guests are encouraged to spend time socializing, to hold a business meeting, or to just relax with a cup a coffee and snack from Market. We also wanted to create a residential-style gathering spot for guests that offers a large, private, outdoor area. The Grand Club, designed to resemble a rooftop garden, serves this purpose. The Grand Club offers guests access to technology, productive work areas, high quality food and beverage choices, and a coveted outdoor wrap-around terrace—going above and beyond the typical club lounge. Following the renovation, Grand Hyatt New York’s overall design has a more residential feel to it, which travelers have quickly become accustomed to.
MS: The hotel commissioned artists and designers to re-animate and re-energize the public spaces. How does this emphasis on art and design impact the guest experience and differentiate the hotel from its competition?
MP: The guest experience at Grand Hyatt New York was completely transformed by the emphasis on art and design. The property features talents by artists Jaume Plensa, Burghard Muller-Dannhausen, and Per Fronth; and the design by Bentel & Bentel (public spaces including the lobby, New York Central, and Gallery on Lex), George Wong Design (Premier Suites and Grand Club), and Looney & Associates (guestrooms and VIP Suites). Both business and consumer travelers are more discerning then ever and expect a certain level of design and comfort when they travel. Our artists and designers accomplished the goal of providing a superlative design that incorporates a modern, contemporary feel without creating an overtly trendy environment. Each designer incorporated refined hues, lush textures, and luxuriant artwork into their respective space. Our artists created works to complement, not overwhelm, each space. Jaume Plensa’s twin sculptures serve as the centerpiece of the lobby and welcome guests as they enter the hotel. Murals representing snapshots of New York from Norwegian artist Per Fronth are showcased in both the guestrooms and in New York Central’s Wine Gallery. And vibrant, colorful panels from German artist Burghard Muller-Dannhausen are displayed in the new Gallery on Lex event space. Many newly designed hotels need to balance the priorities of both design and functionality. Grand Hyatt New York incorporates both.
MS: Why is the renovation of this historic hotel property an imperative part of the overall renaissance of the Grand Central neighborhood of New York City?
MP: Grand Hyatt New York is fortunate to be located adjacent to Grand Central Station at the crossroads of midtown Manhattan. The Grand Central neighborhood has been experiencing a renaissance and revitalization over the last few years. New high-profile retailers have opened in and around Grand Central and we are excited to be a part of this neighborhood at such an exciting time. Grand Hyatt New York is a place for both visitors and residents to enjoy. Specifically, New York Central and Market cater to not only out-of-town guests, but residents as well. New Yorkers are invited to grab a seasonal cocktail at our lounge in New York Central or a glass of wine at our Wine Gallery featuring WineStation technology, to enjoy the diverse cuisine by Chef Christian Ragano, and to experience the tasty treats prepared by Pastry Chef Katzie Guy-Hamilton. Most recently, Guy-Hamilton’s talents earned her a coveted spot on Season 2 of Bravo’s “Top Chef: Just Desserts.”