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Thread: New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

  1. #1

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    New Ritz Must Go On — Next to Ground Zero

    Daily News Feature Writer

    The water sommelier will be ready to go when the $210 million Ritz-Carlton at Battery Park hotel and condominium complex opens Tuesday — nearly five months and five blocks from the World Trade Center attacks.

    So will the bath butler, the toy menu, the monogrammed p.j.'s.

    In the weeks after Sept. 11, the sommelier service and the other indulgences seemed in danger of being lost to the notion that pampering was unpatriotic.

    Though Ritz staffers are aware of the devastation in their backyard — one-third of the 298 guest rooms overlook Ground Zero — nothing, down to the last chocolate truffle on the last Frette-sheeted bed, has been dropped from the original game plan.

    The Ritz hotel looks as swanky as ever in its new location near the WTC site.
    "We cannot play down the Ritz-Carlton name," Manfred Timmel, the hotel's general manager, said as dozens of workers scurried about. "We're not changing our marketing plan. If you look around the hotel, it's done in truly luxurious style — the materials, the woodwork, the accents, the artwork. It's a special property, and we're here to stay."

    Timmel sees the 39-story complex — the first project to open in New York since Sept. 11 — as a symbol of lower Manhattan's determination to rebound.

    The hotel, on the corner of West St. and Battery Place, was 28 days from its launch when the twin towers were attacked; though the building was unscathed — a layer of dust had to be cleaned — many of the hotel's employees witnessed the disaster close-up.

    There was never a question that the Ritz would open — the hotel marks the chain's return to the city after a five-year absence. Far dicier was the matter of how and when.

    "It was a given that we couldn't open Oct. 9. The building wasn't finished and we had to wait until construction people could get back in," said Timmel.

    Though the glass-and-brick Ritz-Carlton may forever stand in the shadow left by the World Trade Center, 65% of the rooms have stunning views of New York Harbor, which company executives hope will draw weekend tourists as well as weekday business travelers.

    Every harbor-front room has a telescope (maids are trained to focus them on the Statue of Liberty each morning), and the hotel's signature drink is the "Libertini" (citrus vodka, pear liquor, Midori and blue curacao).

    For kids, there's a toy menu for loaners, like Candyland, Monopoly and Clue, from FAO Schwarz. For grownups, a bath butler will draw your bubbles(the most aptly named option may be the Wall Street, complete with glass of Champagne for bulls, or beer for bears).

    As for the much-ballyhooed water sommelier? Oberstein says he'll be on hand to guide guests through the vagaries of Evian and Pelligrino (hint: check the bubbles) or to ensure that your ice cubes are made from your favorite H20.

    It all comes at a price. City-view rooms, which were always intended to be the least expensive, start at $260 a night on weekends; harbor views start at $300, while the Ritz-Carlton Suite will set you back $4,500 a night. Through March 31, however, rooms are $199 and $239 on weekends and $325 and $365 on weekdays. (Suites range from $750 to $950.)

    The 114 condos on the top 25 stories of the complex — with floor-to-ceiling windows, they're testament to the fact that priceless views do, indeed, have a price — go from $700,000 for a one-bedroom to $6.3million for the duplex penthouse.

    So far, 77 have been sold and, though a handful of buyers tried to get out of their contracts after Sept. 11, Millennium Partners, which developed the project, has refused to concede anything, including price.

    Original Publication Date: 1/23/02

    Ritz-Carlton at Battery Park in December of 2001

  2. #2

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    Will the Skyscraper Museum open along with the hotel?

  3. #3

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    January 28, 2002
    Hotel Plans a Defiant Debut Near Ground Zero

    During the last few days before its grand opening tomorrow, the Ritz-Carlton, New York Battery Park hotel's 300 or so staff members seemed to have devoted themselves to a world of make-believe at their newly constructed glass-and- brick tower perched at the tip of Lower Manhattan.

    Workers were being evaluated on how well they handled countless scenarios led by a team of 75 Ritz- Carlton trainers who had flown in from around the world to make sure this modern palace lives up to the company's five-star standards. So there were mock banquets and "afternoon tea trials," concocted conversations that served as tutorials on "proper verbiage," and dozens of check-ins and check-outs, although no guests had arrived.

    The contemporary dιcor in this Ritz-Carlton marks a dramatic departure from the traditional, Old World style in most of its other hotels, but it is distinct in another way: it is at 2 West Street, just five blocks south of ground zero.

    The trainers hope the practice drills will smooth the opening of the first Ritz-Carlton in New York since the company removed its trademark lions from 112 Central Park South five years ago after a protracted dispute with that building's owners. But despite all the preparations, a crucial detail remains beyond the hotel's control: how the sagging economy will respond to the first major development project to open downtown since the terrorist attack of Sept. 11.

    "That we do open a hotel, that should set a trend of confidence," said Manfred Timmel, the new hotel's general manager, adding, "By name alone we are making a certain statement."

    And the statement is loud and clear, according to those who track the hotel industry and redevelopment around the former site of the World Trade Center. The new hotel's presence, they say, will add inestimable cachet to a battered zone in need of an image makeover.

    "The presence of the Ritz name and services, it clearly enhances the value of the area," said John Fox, a senior vice president and hotel industry analyst for PKF Consulting. "Ritz is a very strong brand name that is able, by virtue of the brand, to generate a lot of business."

    The president of the Alliance for Downtown, Carl Weisbrod, called the new hotel, which features many original pieces of art by New York artists, "a symbol of elegance" and "a terrific thing."

    But what are the chances for survival of a hotel whose rooms go for $465 to $4,500 a night, when business travel, its lifeblood, has dwindled precipitously, and leisure tourism, its backup, is foundering?

    Although Mr. Timmel would not give precise figures, he did say the hotel had already softened its estimates about how robust business would be at its debut. And analysts said that while the beginning may be shaky, the ultimate success of the $210 million project, which includes 113 condominiums priced from from $650,000 to $6.4 million, will not be decided by how it does in the short term.

    "I think they're going to have some trying times ahead," Mr. Fox said. "It's coming on the market at a tough period and at a very tough location, given what's happened downtown. They're clearly opening to a market that's quite different from when it was conceived.

    "That said, you can't look at it in terms of one or two years. You look at it in terms of 30 or 50 years. While it may go through some early travails, ultimately it will be very successful."

    Mr. Timmel said the hotel has already met its newer, more modest goals. Guests have made reservations. Meeting rooms are booked. The caterers are busier than expected.

    The 500,000-square-foot building, owned by Millennium Partners, was originally scheduled to open on Oct. 10, just 29 days after the attack. Instead, as he and his staff were evacuated to New Jersey on a tugboat on Sept. 11, Mr. Timmel, who had previously been the general manager of the Regent Wall Street, said he looked back at the carnage and wondered what would happen to the Ritz and to the neighborhood.

    "A decision wasn't made at that time because there was a period of uncertainty," he said.

    For one thing, the hotel's construction crews were among the closest to ground zero, and were immediately drafted to work in the rescue effort. "There was not any doubt we'd continue the project," Mr. Timmel said, "but there was a question about timing and market conditions."

    The hotel industry in New York had a peak year in 2000, in average room rates and occupancy levels. But since then, about 4,500 new rooms have come on the market and occupancy has declined. Room rates are down, too, from an average $237 in 2000 to a projected $182 this year, Mr. Fox said.

    Millennium Partners' director of corporate communications, Matthew Hall, said 77 condos had been sold, including several since the attack. He, too, would not discuss specifics but acknowledged that sales had slowed since Sept. 11.

    The Ritz-Carlton and Millennium Partners are planning another opening in the spring, for the Ritz- Carlton New York, Central Park, on Central Park South. It will also have residences, priced from $20 million to $30 million, Mr. Hall said.

    Mr. Timmel, though, remains intent on Lower Manhattan."We have to focus on the positives," he said. "We expect the local community to overcome."

  4. #4

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    Ritz-Carlton Bustles For Opening in NYC

    By Alan J. Wax

    January 29, 2002

    In the restaurant of the new Ritz-Carlton New York Hotel, Battery Park, waiters yesterday were being instructed in the fine points of tea service.

    In a third-floor executive suite, construction workers and decorators, arms filled with plans, tape and tools, wandered in and out. One elevator was out of service as crews put finishing touches on it. Detail work on the terrace of the 14th-floor bar continued. In fact, crews were all over the 298-room hotel, getting it ready for its debut.

    The hotel, the first building to be completed in lower Manhattan since Sept. 11, opens its doors today to its first paying guests.

    The hotel, which has 320 employees, was scheduled to open Oct. 9, but access to the property was difficult and construction could not be completed after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

    With the streets north of this posh hotel still a maze of barricades, construction equipment and police cars, opening near Ground Zero has posed a challenge. Add to this unanswered questions about businesses returning to the area, the financial services industry's troubles and a downturn in travel and the task seems absolutely daunting.

    Manfred Timmel, the hotel's general manager, says he doesn't view his situation as a challenge. "We have a special task," he said, adding that he is pleased that Atlanta-based Ritz-Carlton decided to move forward with the hotel. "We see ourselves as a beacon for the rebirth of the area."

    Timmel said the changed downtown environment and the economy have caused Ritz-Carlton to reduce its financial expectations for the luxe hotel, where guests can have their baths drawn by a bath butler, seek the advice of a bottled-water sommelier, view the Statue of Liberty through a high-power telescope and enjoy the work of 100 New York City artists.

    "It's a fabulous location," on Manhattan's southern tip, said hotel industry consultant Stephen Rushmore of Mineola-based Hospitality Valuation Services.

    Ritz-Carlton is promoting the hotel's harbor views and its proximity to the fashionable SoHo and TriBeCa neighborhoods.

    The hotel occupies the lower third of a 39-story glass and brick tower designed by Polshek and Partners in collaboration with Gary Handel & Associates Architects. There are 113 condominium apartments on the top 25 floors, whose owners have access to all of the hotel's services. Some 70 units have been sold. The property is owned by British developer Millennium Partners, which spent $210 million on the project.

    Downtown Manhattan has lost hotel rooms with the destruction of the 818-room Marriott World Trade Center and the temporary closure of the 561-room Millenium Hilton opposite the complex.

    "It's going to be rough sledding for the next six months," Rushmore said.

    At the 144-room Regent Wall Street hotel, another upscale property, business is surprisingly strong. "Business is excellent," Christopher Knable, president and managing director, said. Knable said he anticipates January occupancy to be about 80 percent, higher than it's ever been at the 2-year-old property. And, he said, the Regent hasn't had to cut its rates, which start at $495 a night.

    At the new Ritz-Carlton, rooms start at $325 a night and reach a stratospheric $4,500 for an executive suite larger than some Manhattan apartments that overlooks the State of Liberty. Weekend rates start at $199.

    The opening marks the return of the Ritz-Carlton brand to New York City after a five-year absence. In 1997, Ritz-Carlton terminated its management agreement at a Central Park South hotel.

    Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.

  5. #5

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    New York Magazine Restaurant Review

    Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park

    Like a 39-story phoenix rising from the ashes, the multi-million-dollar Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park gives dramatic new life to a subdued lower Manhattan -- not to mention butler-drawn baths, a water sommelier, and multiple dining options. On the lobby level, there's the main restaurant, 2 West, serving Spanish- and Italian-themed bento boxes and multicultural noodles at lunch, and a dinner menu full of local ingredients like sake-braised Hudson Valley foie gras with smoked eel and apples. The adjacent Lobby Lounge breaks British convention with a "power tea" of steak tartare, foie gras, a Stilton soufflι, and vodka-infused tea. And the fourteenth-floor Rise bar and lounge, with its smashing harbor views, outdoor deck, signature martinis, and tiered tasting racks of appetizers (pictured), has inherited something of the awe-inspiring spirit of the late Windows on the World.

    2 West Street

  6. #6

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    *Wasn't the Skyscraper Museum going to be located in the Ritz,or was that some other nearby building?
    * Any info concerning their status and/or relocation to the battery?

  7. #7

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    The skyscraper museum will open at the other side of the Ritz. I asked inside but they werent sure when.

  8. #8

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    I hope they'll cover the history of the WTC.
    They could even call it the museum of the WTC.

  9. #9

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    I hope you're wrong, I would expect the WTC to be their first exhibit. Coverage continues and the event and history of the towers will never be forgotten, we are always reminded, some times too much. Further Im sure a strictly WTC-Sept.11 Museum will be built a couple blocks to the north.

  10. #10

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    You mean it'll be included in the memorial ?

  11. #11

    Default New Ritz must go on — next to ground zero

    Yes, as it belongs there. There are exhibits already, the best at the NY Historical Society. I would expect the WTC to be the opening exhibit at the skyscraper museum, but I sincerely hope it will not be turned into a WTC museum. The TXSQ exhibit they held was amazing, the presentation for each building was similar to what you'd expect from their respective firms. This was unique, the WTC's are no longer.

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