Marriott’s Tall Two-fer Opens in Times Square
Two Marriott flags now hang at 1717 Broadway, the 639-key hotel that opened yesterday, which is the Western Hemisphere’s tallest pure hotel property. A confluence of events revealed that “polar vortex” sounds even cooler when G Holdings CEO Harry Gross says it with an accent.
The $320M project has been in the works since Harry (whom we snapped at the opening with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson) bought the three buildings at Broadway and 54th (three restaurants, a porn shop, and a clothing store) in 2001 for $32M (he was told he overpaid). Nothing happened at the site until after the ’08 crash, when Harry’s company obtained more air rights, enough, in fact, to go 760-feet tall with the combo Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn.
Harry tells us his goal is to reinvent the hotel biz (with Manhattan as his playground), which has too many brands and not enough differentiation. But he doesn’t yet know how he’s going to do that. 1717 Broadway, which we snapped, certainly is unique, but that’s because of the location more than the property itself, he says. The footprint is 100 feet by 100 feet with views of both Times Square and Central Park.
Here’s the highly reflective building at street level. The hotels share a fitness center, courtyard cafe, accounting, sales, and maintenance, but the flags’ separate reservation systems are a boon for filling the monolith, which Arne says hits two distinct customers (extended-stay at Residence Inn at $350/night and transient travelers at Courtyard at $300/night). Those hoped-for room rates came from Harry, who also expects to hit 90% occupancy.
We snapped Bill DeBilzan with one of the murals he created for the property. It all started when Harry was visiting his sister in Delray Beach, Fla., walked into Bill’s gallery, and offered to buy out all Bill's works there—at 50% off. That particular deal didn’t take, but Bill did eventually agree to do all the artwork for 1717 Broadway (25 paintings, pillars, and sculptures) and he spent three months on site to get the job done. His work also is in the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, and has appeared in movies and on TV like Frasier, CSI: Miami, and Burn Notice. Collectors include Shaq, Adam Sandler, and Aaron Eckhart. Harry hopes to start a trend of incorporating artwork in Courtyard and Residence Inn properties.