View Full Version : Downtown Regent Hotel to Close

November 29th, 2003, 01:08 AM
From the Downtown Express

Regent to close ballroom and hotel doors

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Bad news for most Downtowners might be good news for Wall St. workers seeking a shorter commute as the Regent Wall Street Hotel closes in January, possibly to be converted into apartments.

A hotel spokesperson confirmed last week that the hotel would be shutting its doors early next year. Hotel officials did not return calls for comment on why the Regent would be closing, but the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 contributed to a citywide slump in hotel business, particularly in Lower Manhattan. Some Downtown construction projects that were planned as hotels before 9/11 have been redesigned as apartment buildings.

Madelyn Wils, chairperson of Community Board 1, said at a meeting last week that the Regent would be developed into condominiums. She lamented the loss of the hotel.

“I think it’s an extreme blow for Lower Manhattan,” Wils said.
Prices for a night at the Regent range from about $300 per room to $10,000 for the “Once Upon a Regent” package, which includes a night in a deluxe loft suite, limousine service around the city, a personalized gourmet dinner and exclusive use of the hotel’s stunning, 12,000-square-foot ballroom during the meal with a string quartet accompaniment, special baths, and other amenities.

A source close to the Regent said that there were no plans to sell the property. Phone calls to the office of Regent owner Sidney Kimmel were referred to a spokesperson.

The spokesperson, Matthew Traub, said in a statement that the hotel’s owners “are absolutely committed to seeing that any new use maintains the dignity and beauty of this structure consistent with the needs of the community.”

Downtowners hope that no matter what becomes of the hotel, its ballroom will remain available for community functions. Community Board 1 held its gala fundraiser there last month.
“Every major event that’s happened Downtown in the last five years has happened there,” said Judy Duffy, assistant district manager of Community Board 1.

Among the events held in the ballroom were Liza Minnelli’s ill-fated union with David Gest, a visit from the Dalai Lama, and Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s speech on his vision for Lower Manhattan.

“The ballroom was great,” Bloomberg told Downtown Express last week. The mayor also expressed regret for the 200 jobs that will be lost when the Regent closes.

The New York Post reported last week that despite Cipriani’s denials, the restaurant group would return to the ballroom that it managed for part of the late 1990s. A receptionist at Cipriani headquarters refuted that claim and said that Giuseppe Cipriani was not available for further comment.
At least one Downtowner would be disappointed if the ballroom is not up for sale.

“I’d love to bid against Cipriani for that property,” said Billy Reilly, owner of Apogee Events, whose properties include the Tribeca Rooftop on Desbrosses St. at Hudson St. “I know my food is better than Cipriani,” Reilly added.

The Wall Street Regent, built in 1842, first served as a bank. The structure is an internal and external city landmark, a spokesperson for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission said, which means that owners must apply to the city for a permit if they want to do anything to the building outside of routine maintenance. Landmarks does not regulate the uses of buildings.

Bloomberg, in response to questions from Downtown Express, said last week that he would need to learn more about why the historic hotel is pulling up the welcome mat.

“Wall Street’s a problem because of the security of getting in — whether that contributed, I just don’t know,” the mayor added.
Since 9/11, security barricades around the New York Stock Exchange have made the area harder to navigate. At 55 Wall St., the hotel stands just around the corner from the sexchange.

The Ritz Carlton at Battery Park City, located just off the West Side Highway, is more easily accessed, and that might have contributed to the 30 percent growth the Ritz experienced this year, said Dan Flannery, area general manager for the Ritz hotels in New York.

“Our location makes us much more of a weekend destination for high-end leisure customers,” Flannery said.

Flannery said that compared with the Regent, the Ritz has more flexibility accommodating different sized social and business groups. While the Regent’s ballroom is “magnificent,” Flannery said, “it’s kind of all or nothing,” since smaller parties were less likely use the space.

For her part, C.B. 1’s Duffy said that she hopes that the community will still be able to rent out the ballroom. She sighed over the room’s ornate details, including Wedgewood rotunda.

Said Duffy, “They’ll never be built like that again.”



November 29th, 2003, 11:12 AM
I work on Wall St. and there has been constant construction on 3 sides of the hotel for what seems like forever. Its practically impossible to get to the hotel if you have a large amount of luggage. IMO, it is absolutely shameful that a better job hasn't been done to spruce up the area, better handle the construction going on, and make the security barriers more appealing.

November 29th, 2003, 12:04 PM
The announced area security improverments came too late for the Regent.
There is a less expensive hotel around the corner on William St, Club Quarters. I wonder how it's doing?

December 18th, 2003, 08:54 AM
December 18, 2003

Surviving 9/11, but Not Aftermath


The Regent Wall Street ballroom, where dozens of rescue workers slept after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The great gray dowager empress of Wall Street was transformed four years ago into the belle of the ball. Today, the ball is nearly over.

In its lustrous past, the Greek Revival landmark at 55 Wall Street was home to the fledgling New York Stock Exchange, to Herman Melville when he was a deputy customs inspector and to Citibank as it rose to national prominence. Reborn in 1999 as the Regent Wall Street hotel, the Regent ballroom and the 55 Wall restaurant, it has been a social and political hub ever since.

After the attack on the World Trade Center, hundreds of downtown residents gathered under its glowing gold dome, marble Corinthian columns and deeply coffered ceiling for a town meeting. President Bush delivered his speech on corporate malfeasance there and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg outlined his vision for Lower Manhattan. The impresario Clive Davis used it for his Grammy party this year. Liza Minnelli and David Gest celebrated their wedding there.

That was not the only unhappy ending.

The Regent is preparing to close on Jan. 17 after one of the shortest runs of any deluxe hotel in the city's history. It is a victim not only of the attack on New York — through which it resolutely stayed open, sheltering and feeding victims, workers and neighbors — but of an economy that was souring even before Sept. 11, 2001.

"At some point, you have to say it doesn't make sense to continue to bear the losses," said Christopher R. J. Knable, the president of the hotel. The building, between William and Hanover Streets, is owned by a partnership led by Sidney Kimmel, chairman of the Jones Apparel Group.

Though Mr. Knable acknowledged a recent rebound in business, he said occupancy of the 144-room hotel fell at one point after the attack to less than 10 percent and nightly room rates dropped from the mid-$500's to the mid-$200's. (They are back to $525 a night for a 600-square-foot room, $1,250 for suites with terraces; occupancy is 75 to 80 percent, Mr. Knable said.)

Without being specific about the amount of the losses, Mr. Knable said: "It's a big number. One cannot continue to sustain a business, even with the rebound, to the extent Mr. Kimmel has done."

What is to become of the nine-story building, with its double colonnade of Ionic and Corinthian columns and its 12,000-square-foot rotunda? Residential conversion is certainly an option, Mr. Knable said. As for the ballroom operating independently, he said it had not been discussed.

"It's important to Sidney that the building continue to serve the public in some fashion," he said. "We have a responsibility to our staff to make sure everybody is employed as quickly as possible. Beyond that, nothing has been decided." The hotel has about 200 employees.

A job fair has been held and another is planned. Union members who lose jobs through a closing receive preference in hiring at other hotels, said John Turchiano, a spokesman for the New York Hotel Trades Council. Because Regent Wall Street employees are "top-notch workers," he said, they "should not have too much difficulty."

With six stout Christmas trees standing among the 30-foot-high, 33-ton granite columns along the Wall Street facade, the Regent does not look like a hotel about to shut down.

That is just the way Asaad M. Farag, the general manager, wants it. The Regent will be run as a luxury hotel "100 percent to the last second," said Mr. Farag, who still cannot resist running his finger across tabletops in the hallways.

The final event in the ballroom will be a dinner on Jan. 15 to benefit the Wall Street Rising neighborhood coalition, of which Mr. Knable is a board member.

"I'm really dreading the day when I go in there for the last time," said Julie Menin, the president of Wall Street Rising, adding that the Regent had come to be "almost in a way like a town hall."

It was perhaps never so much a town hall as in late 2001. "Coming together for events and meetings in this beautifully preserved, historic building was particularly meaningful to the downtown community after the shattering experiences of 9/11," said Kathryn S. Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City.

One of the first such meetings brought downtown residents face to face with city, state and federal officials in a session moderated by Madelyn Wils, chairwoman of Community Board 1. "When you have 2,000 or 3,000 people suffering from trauma in one room, it's quite an event," she recalled.

Ms. Wils said the closing "represents exactly the opposite of everything we're trying to do down here."

Michelle A. Adams, executive director of the Association for a Better New York, said she hoped the ballroom would reopen as an event space.

Because the Cipriani family briefly operated the ballroom and restaurant before Regent International Hotels took over, rumors of their return are common. Mr. Knable is a partner in Cipriani Knable International, which is developing Cipriani hotels overseas. He said that was "completely separate from what is happening with 55 Wall."

Organizers are not sure where else they would go downtown. "There are no other venues that can hold a sit-down dinner for 800 people," Ms. Menin said.

Sit-down dinners for 800 were not exactly what the architect Isaiah Rogers had in mind when he designed the Merchants' Exchange. It opened in 1842 with offices for insurers, bankers and brokers, including the New York Stock and Exchange Board, later the Stock Exchange, which was there until 1854.

From 1862 to 1907, the building was the United States Custom House.

The National City Bank, now Citibank, moved its headquarters into the building in 1908 after an expansion by McKim, Mead & White that added the second colonnade to the facade. Long after the bank shifted its headquarters to 399 Park Avenue, it kept a branch in the rotunda.

Mr. Kimmel bought the property in 1998 for $27 million and spent more than $80 million to turn the small office building into what Gerard R. Wolfe said was "arguably the most luxurious hotel in the city."

Neither luxury nor glamour came to Mr. Farag's mind when asked to name the most memorable moment of his year-and-a-half stewardship. Instead, he spoke of the day in November that employees learned the hotel would close. He said they applauded when they were told it would "stay a Regent until the last day."

"It's not a building, it's a host," Mr. Farag said as he stood under the great dome while the ballroom shaped up for another dinner. "This building will be a great host for anything in the future."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 18th, 2003, 11:00 AM
In the good ol' days, I had a Christmas party there... amazing. Such a shame it's closed.

December 18th, 2003, 11:29 AM
After the attack on the World Trade Center, hundreds of downtown residents gathered under its glowing gold dome, marble Corinthian columns and deeply coffered ceiling for a town meeting.
I remember that well. Downtown still looked like a war zone, and the contrast was stunning.

December 18th, 2003, 01:05 PM
NJ barriers really do not do anything any good. I guess it is better than the vehicle (literally cars and vans) barriers they were using all over the place. But since when has NYC ever had a well implemented plan for city improvement?

The west side park took about 5 or 6 years to complete and it was only a few miles. No concrete curing, just waiting for the next phase to take effect. Contractors both putting up with bureaucracy and milking the contract for whatever they can get for it....

I hope that no matter what the use, certain things are preserved.

October 23rd, 2008, 01:23 AM

A Test of Wll