In the Region | New Jersey
A Destination Hotel for Hoboken
Published: December 18, 2005
AS Hoboken continues its notch-by-notch niche-by-niche climb from slummy to sophisticated, this month's groundbreaking for a 25-story W Hotel on the refurbished waterfront has to be counted as another significant step.
The stylish new W beside the Hudson River will be Hoboken's one and only major hotel. None survive from the dockside city's less refined past, and city officials have been pressing to get a new one built for nearly a decade. The W is to open next fall.
With 225 first-class rooms, 40 elegant hotel residences and a signature array of amenities, the W Hoboken is expected to zoom to the four-star status now enjoyed by only one other hotel in New Jersey, the Short Hills Hilton - and add new credibility to Hoboken's claim to cutting-edge cachet.
"The city has gone from a place known for its college-age bars," with their stereotypical excesses, "to becoming the height of a hip urban scene," said John Avoletta, proprietor of Lua, a sleek restaurant and bar fronting the Hudson River that opened last year.
Only four years ago, there were not yet any restaurants or nightspots beside the river, but now there is a row of very nice establishments, Mr. Avoletta's Lua among the nicest.
"We have begun focusing on a more mature and discriminating clientele," he said, "and the W will be a terrific addition to the scene."
The W brand, begun in 1998 with the opening of the first W New York, now operates in 20 cities - 16 in the United States and one each in Australia, Canada, South Korea and Mexico. Ross A. Klein, president of the hotel company, which is owned by Starwood Resorts and Hotels Worldwide Inc., said hotels are currently in various stages of construction in Las Vegas, Hollywood, South Beach, Phoenix, Vieques and Barcelona. The W Maldives-Fesdhu, W's first resort, is scheduled to open in next June.
Hoboken is a little city, just a mile square, with only about 40,000 residents. But it is ready for the big time, in Mr. Klein's view.
"We do not see the W in Hoboken as a case of us taking an urban-city product and installing it in a suburb," Mr. Klein said. "We consider it to be a world-class property in the same way as we think of W's in London, Hong Kong, Dallas and Denver."
At the same time, Mr. Klein said he thinks it is "neat" that the W chain is creating a hotel just across the river from Manhattan that will face "the city of its birth."
Michael Barry, a principal of the Applied Development Company, the hotel's builder, noted that the building is designed to provide maximum views of the New York skyline. The wedge-shaped structure, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects of Manhattan, will be angled on its site near the Hoboken PATH and ferry stations so that huge bay windows will provide a panoramic view of Manhattan from all of the higher floors.
The tall slim tower will rise well above adjacent office buildings put up by SJP Properties during commercial development of the waterfront several years ago. Its gleaming metal-and-glass surfaces will provide a contrast to the traditional brick-and-masonry look of the city.
The hotel residences - featured in all newer W hotels - will occupy the top nine floors and have views north and south along the river.
The two-, three- or four-bedroom residences, which will have prices starting around $1.5 million, according to Mr. Barry, will offer all the amenities and services attached to a hotel stay: a striking lobby with a street-level bar, a fine restaurant, a shopping area, a glamorous upstairs bar, a Bliss spa, ballroom facilities and "Whatever, Whenever" concierge service.
Mr. Klein said that the hotel chain has discovered that its business draws as much from local communities as from travelers.
"We find a lot of people using our properties as weekend homes - urban escapes with great dining and lounges and the Bliss spa," he said. "We try to keep W exciting, so you can always find something to intrigue and delight you." Mr. Klein said he recently dropped into one of the two New York W's - they are at Union Square and Times Square - and was tickled to see a special on "manly-cures" at the spa.
The W Shop at the hotel offers spa products for sale, as well as items used in furnishing the rooms: down comforters, linens, piqué bathrobes, slippers, etc.
Mr. Klein talked of his hotel's becoming a cornerstone in Hoboken, and Mr. Barry predicted it would become an icon for residents on both sides of the Hudson. The president of the Hoboken City Council has already taken to referring to the skyscraper as "Hoboken's exclamation point," Mr. Barry said.
"The building will give New York something exciting to look at," he said, "and locally, people can look at it and think: 'Wow! This is Hoboken!' "