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Looking For A Place In Hyatt History…

By Chris Boyle

In the modern history of upscale hotels Hyatt has long been at the forefront of  innovation.  While its roots only date back to 1957, it was the Hyatt Regency Atlanta in 1967 that redefined hotels for decades with its atrium lobby design.  An article about the hotel in The Atlanta Constitution several years after its opening noted it “was more than a hotel – it was a tourist attraction.  People lined up to ride its glass elevators to the top of the hotel, which was capped a rotating restaurant inside a blue glass bubble. The space-age bubble, lit from within, glowed over the Atlanta skyline at night like a monument to the future.”  It launched the career of a little know designer John Portman.


In the 1980s, Hyatt was partnered with Christopher Hemmeter opening the Grand Hyatt Waikoloa for the then princely sum of $300 million.  Like the innovative atriums of Portman, this marked the age of “destination resorts.” A piece by The New York Times noted the resort “boasted exotic animals, gondolas, lake-sized swimming pools, Clydesdale-drawn carriages, expensive Asian artworks and acres of brass and marble.


“He totally revolutionized the hotel industry,” Larry Johnson, retired chief executive of the Bank of Hawaii, said in the article. “Until he started to build them, hotels were pretty generic — the rooms and lobbies all kind of looked alike.


The Hyatt legacy wasn’t just the hotels. Horst H. Schulze who in the 1980s launched The Ritz-Carlton hotel brand from one property to create a global group bringing new levels of luxury and service cut his teeth at Hyatt for a decade. And today former Hyatt executives dot the ranks of leadership in other luxury groups around the world, including Marc Dardenne of Patina Hotels, Trevor Horwell, the CEO of Nobu Hospitality, Grand del Mar President Thomas Voss, SH Group CEO Scott Rohm, Hershey Resorts President Bill Simpson and Belmond CMO Ralph Aruzza. In fact, longtime Hyatt executive Rakesh Sarna has just been named CEO of The Indian Hotels Company, parent of Taj Hotels & Palaces.


While the group was named for one of its founders, and today is a publicly traded company, it has long been associated with the Pritzker family, and  Thomas Pritzker serves today as Executive Chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corporation.  Forbes counts 11 family members as billionaires on its 2014 list.  Penny Pritzker is current Secretary of Commerce.

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Hyatt’s long association with New York City includes the Grand Hyatt New York, one of the early successes for a young would be real estate mogul named Donald Trump.


Needless to say the opening of the first Park Hyatt in New York, the official party tonight, was not meant to be missed.  With 210 rooms, including 92 suites, it is located on the first 25 floors of One57, a 90-story skyscraper designed by Christian de Portzamparc where starting prices are in the double digit millions. Penthouses are priced at $115 million, making Waikoloa seem like a bargain.


Across from Carnegie Hall on what is being called Billionaire’s Row, the property is meant to cater to elite travelers.  The New York Post noted it is the first new full five-star hotel in midtown in a decade, breaking the string of buzz for the plethora of trendy boutique hotels.


Rooms and suites are by Yabu Pushelberg and the hotel’s website simply puts it “guests will experience an uncommon space offering sophistication and elegance.  Indulge in our generously-sized accommodations that marry luxurious appointments with dozens of modern amenities.” If you’re counting there is a list of 40 amenities from cordless phones to TVs built in to bathroom mirrors.


While the hotel may not have tourists trekking through the lobby to ride glass elevators or see dolphins (in fact there is lots of hotel security discouraging wandering visitors) the new inn was getting a positive reaction from a crowd of media and travel industry elite, including powerbrokers Valerie Wilson, doyenne of Valerie Wilson Travel, Virtuoso’s Albert Herrera, Ensemble Travel’s Libbie Rice and Vincent DeMauro.


It’s 25th floor pool spans 65 feet and has underwater classical music piped in to remind swimmers when they pop their head up they can look out via three story high windows look to Carnegie Hall.  Spa Nalai, in the same complex, offers outdoor terrace treatments and guests are advised to arrive 60 minutes prior “to enjoy the luxurious spa amenities.”


The Back Room for dining has a menu focused on steaks and lobsters and I can already vouch for the martinis in the comfortable lobby bar.


Of particular interest to elite travelers, there are no fewer than a dozen suite types.  The Presidential Suite is 2,239-sq.-ft. suite with natural stone flooring wand residential area rug and museum-quality artwork, as well as one king bed topped in Rivolta Carmignani linens, spacious living room, powder room and panoramic views of 58th Street. A walk-in rain shower, luxurious soaking tub and signature Le Labo products await in the full bath, while premium amenities include wireless Internet and butler service.


The show stopper in my opinion however is The Onyx Ballroom, with 28 feet of backlit white onyx rising from floor to ceiling set for tasteful disco like flashing displays, one full wall of glass and a two-story sculptural mirror.  It will be a great wedding and event venue.  There is also a 1,000 square foot outdoor terrace for events and plenty of well designed pre-event space, small spaces that create a nice circuit to ramble around in with a glass of Dom Perignon.


While it’s not clear that Park Hyatt New York is a breakthrough in the way of Atlanta or Waikoloa, it’s nice to know that One57’s billionaires don’t have to go far if they want a stunning venue to have a party.

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