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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Making of Manhattan's newest star

 Passersby who peeked behind the plywood fencing at 135 West 45th Street in the last two years saw nothing more than a big hole in the ground. But in truth, much of the heavy lifting had already been happening behind the scenes, explains Carl A. Kernodle, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Vice President, Development Asset Management for Hyatt. Here, he shares the backstage story of the Theater District’s newest star, the Hyatt Times Square.

This is the tallest HYATT branded hotel in the world and the first new Hyatt in NYC in decades. What was the impetus for the project?

Hyatt had been looking to expand into underserved locations, and New York City in particular. When this site became available, we were very excited because it offered us a prime location in the heart of the theater and business districts, as well as being close to many of the city’s top attractions. Once David Tarr, Hyatt Senior Vice President of Real Estate and Development for the Americas, determined that the location was a good fit for the Hyatt brand, he worked to ink the deal with Extell Development Company, one of the city's most active developers, and the project was underway.

There are some unusual features in the Hyatt Times Square. How did you determine the defining attributes of the hotel?

Extell already had the permits, air rights and other permissions in place, so the building envelope--the number of floors and footprint--was set. Based on that and a brand formula from Hyatt's experience, we determined the optimum mix of rooms, suites and room sizes. The rest of the design decisions flowed from a collaborative process between my team and our partners--Extell, SLCE Architects, SPAN Architecture and George Wong Design--to create a hotel that expressed the Hyatt brand.

How does the Hyatt Times Square embody the Hyatt brand?

Our guests come to Hyatt hotels to experience the uniqueness of the destination, and every Hyatt is designed around that. Extell's expertise in the multi-family, high-end residential market was a good fit with the Hyatt brand, since we try to be as local as possible in every aspect. For the Hyatt Times Square, we decided to make the spa a true urban retreat, which gives the Hyatt Times Square something no hotel in the area has---something that should please wedding groups, as well as leisure and business travelers. Similarly, we concepted a ground floor diner and rooftop sky lounge with such a strong sense of place that they would become destinations in themselves for our guests, theater-goers and other tourists, as well as for New Yorkers.

Every project presents unique design challenges. What were some of the challenges you faced in creating the Hyatt Times Square and how did you meet them?

First, let me say that meeting those challenges is usually what ends up making a design distinctive and special. One of the unusual givens in this project was that the building has a small footprint relative to its height. We turned that into an advantage for the guests, because having only 11 rooms per floor gives the hotel a more intimate and luxurious residential feeling as you step off the elevator. The small footprint also meant limited space for a room service operation, giving rise to the creative idea for a modern in-house diner with take-out and delivery service.

The guest room decor presented another type of design challenge. The cornerstone of the Hyatt brand is drawing on our location for our look and feel, so we wanted to celebrate the energy from Times Square without making our rooms over-stimulating. It fell to Chris Lanzisera, Hyatt Director of Design, Product & Brand Development, Architecture & Design to find a way to celebrate the locale while creating a guest room that is relaxing and enjoyable. Working with Lanzisera, George Wong Design created a room that helps guests simultaneously feel at home and a part of New York life. The use of neutral, light-toned fabrics and warm woods sets a calming, relaxing ambience, while magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows and eye-catching, city-themed original art such as a custom-designed pop-art lounge chair capture the inspiring energy of the city. Similarly, Lanzisera worked with SPAN Architecture to capture the mood and energy of the city while providing calming, yet inspiring ambiences for the lobby and rooftop lounge.

How do you ensure that your design ideas go to plan?

Good question. A key part of good design is ensuring that it gets implemented and put into practice as planned. Corinna Bonn, Director Project Services - Product/Brand Development, Architecture & Design, is our hands-on details and operations person. Her job starts with making sure that everything from bedding and tables to soaps and plates comes in as planned and she works with the operations teams to make sure all our thoughts about operations get rolled out and integrated through all the touch points with our guests and associates.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The Hyatt Times Square New York is an inspiring hotel. It’s going to be a very exciting addition to our portfolio when it opens this October.