February 5, 2003
Sailors, Runaways and Now, Bicoastal Hoteliers
By NADINE BROZAN
A portholed Chelsea building, designed in the 60's for a sailors' union and later enlisted as a teenagers' shelter, is to be redeveloped as a hotel.
Guest rooms built for members of a sailors' union — each with windows shaped like portholes — and later used by runaway teenagers and then by visitors from China are soon to be occupied, the building's new owners hope, by hip visitors to New York in what is now the Maritime Hotel.
The hotel is the latest incarnation of the white-tile 12-story structure that occupies the blockfront on the east side of Ninth Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets.
Its introduction signifies a new partnership on the New York hotel scene: that of the club and restaurant impresarios Sean K. MacPherson and Eric Goode, who offered the winning bid for the property, $19 million when it was sold in 2001, and the hotel developers Richard Born and Ira Drukier.
Mr. MacPherson and Mr. Goode are known individually for clubs in New York, like Mr. Goode's Area, MK and the Bowery Bar; in Los Angeles for places like Mr. MacPherson's Bar Marmont, Swingers and Jones; and jointly for the Park restaurant in New York, created from three former taxi garages on 10th Avenue near 18th Street.
No sooner did the two club operators complete the acquisition than they called Mr. Born and Mr. Drukier, developers, owners and operators of hotels including the Chambers and the Stanhope, as well as the glassy loft condominium towers on Perry Street designed by Richard Meier. Mr. Born and Mr. Drukier had also bid on the old union building.
"They signed the contract to buy and called me about 10 minutes later and said they wanted to talk about doing it together," Mr. Born said. "We then joined forces to buy the property and own the hotel.
"Then Sept. 11 happened, and we all looked at each other and asked, `Do we really want to move forward?' " he recalled. "We had several other hotel sites that we put on hold, but we made a decision to move forward with this because we think we're going to offer a product that is a little unique and that at our price point, we can survive and prosper even post-9/11." The total cost of the project is about $33 million.
The building has an eclectic past. It was designed in 1966 for the National Maritime Union by Albert C. Ledner, a New Orleans architect. It served as the annex to the union's main building on Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets and included living quarters and instructional, medical and recreation space.
In 1987 it was converted into a home for runaway youths by Covenant House. Nine years later, it changed hands again, when it was sold to the New York Service Center for Chinese Study Fellows, which provided a variety of housing and educational services for Chinese students, artists and businesspeople.
Each team of partners involved in the current renovation provided different skills. "Clearly, they had never done a project like this," Mr. Born said of his restaurateur partners. "But they had the vision, determination, substantial personal capital and energy. They are the vision people, and we are the real estate and finance guys."
Mr. MacPherson and Mr. Goode also designed the changes in the building's exterior and interior. "They drew everything out," Mr. Born said. "We have engineers and architects who reviewed their designs and made them conform to city codes and requirements."
Pointing to the restoration of the wood-slatted, barrel-vaulted ceiling in the ballroom that was once the union hiring hall, Mr. MacPherson said, "We're trying to restore as much of the original as possible."
The existing walls of the 120 guest rooms and 4 suites, each facing west and with a circular window five feet in diameter, are staying in place. The rooms, with new dark teak built-in furnishings and glossy white ceilings, are vaguely evocative of ship staterooms. The rooms are expected to rent for around $200 a night.
At the street level, "our emphasis will be on beautiful gardens," Mr. Goode said. A 12,000-square-foot plaza on the Ninth Avenue side of the building, will be elevated eight feet off the ground. In the middle will be a 5,000-square-foot garden with a pond and lily pads.
The garden is to be flanked by a restaurant, probably Mediterranean, and a bar. Both will have additional gardens on their roofs. There will be a Japanese restaurant inside.
Despite the downturn in hotel occupancy, Mr. Born says he thinks the partnership has a successful formula for the hotel.
"Yes, there has been a lot of erosion in hotel rates," he said, "but maybe the high levels we got used to in 1999 and 2000 were not normal. And clearly, with the two restaurants, ballroom and gardens, we will potentially have between 1,000 and 2,000 people eating there every day."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
February 22, 2004
A Place for Their Kind
By JULIA CHAPLIN
For those nostalgic for the first wave of exclusive lounges in the mid-1990's like Spy and Wax, where art dealers, scruffy rock stars and high-powered literary agents mingled with the latest models, Hiro, the new Japanese-themed lounge at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea, will try to channel that feeling.
"We won't use promoters or e-mail out mass invitations," said Nur Khan, who was an owner of Wax and the bar Sway, and who says he is friends with the likes of Kate Moss, Mick Jagger and Primal Scream. "Everyone in here has to be a power broker or creative."
To help spread the word to the right people, Mr. Khan and the singer Michael Stipe of R.E.M. were hosts of Hiro's first event, during Fashion Week, a private party for the British magazine Dazed and Confused, attended by a who's who of waifish models and the young actresses Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which Mr. Khan said was a good sampling of his crowd. "It's meant to feel like a secret late-night hideaway," said Eric Goode, who owns and designed the Maritime Hotel with Sean MacPherson. Mr. Khan worked with them on the design of Hiro and runs it.
At Hiro's opening on Feb. 13, the formula seemed to gel. There was no sign outside, no velvet rope and no guest list. Instead, patrons were greeted by a woman peering through a window who cracked the door so they could plead their case for entry. At about midnight, people began to trickle into the club, a dimly lit room with low, undulating wooden ceilings, Japanese lanterns and a backlighted shoji screen concealing a sunken ballroom that will be used for special events and concerts.
Malcolm Crews, 32, a fashion art director, sat sipping a vodka tonic in a red banquette obscured by a rope curtain. "Friday nights are usually really scary," said Mr. Crews, noting with approval as a group of women walked past that there wasn't a bare midriff or Ugg boot among them. "I usually just stay home," he said, "but here it seems like there's a better chance of meeting cool people."
Over by the long wooden bar stood Benji Baker, 32, a former model who had come to Hiro to meet up with friends from the Wilhelmina modeling agency. Ms. Baker had dined next door at Matsuri, the Japanese restaurant, and then wandered upstairs to the hotel bar, she said, for yet another round of sake.
"Everyone we want to see is coming here tonight," said Ms. Baker, who said she met Mr. Khan during too many late nights years ago at Wax. "I only hope I don't pass out before they get here."
Always one of my favorites. I want to have a bite in the restaurant at the bottom, which always reminds me of South Beach when I walk by.
Nice pictures. I really like the windows of this hotel, and how they open. Also, I agree that the restaurant seems like a very nice place and reminds me of places in Florida as well.
Yes, it looks very nice but I don't think poeple there are very nice (administration staff) ...
The people who work the door can be unpleasant to an extent ( especially if there is a line around the corner) but its nothing atypical NYC clubs. Im talking about Hiro ballroom which is on the 16th st side next to the main entrance for the hotel. This has become a consistently hot party for the past couple of years; always a fun time.
Does the bed fold up?
On the 17th Street wing of the Maritime they're adding more window openings.
I think I remember seeing the scaffolding for this and there is a permit filed for skin replacement.
Rendering by Spine 3D
With the new treatment, the original concept is completely ruined (no longer maritime). Was this not landmarked?
Thanks very very much for posting all of the pictues of the hotel. Does anyone know the new name of the hotel? Since it's not Maritime anymore. I need to know the new name of the hotel.
It's still called the Maritime Hotel.
Methinks that ablarc was referring to the fact that they no longer use it as housing for maritime workers (one of the original purposes when it was first built by the National Maritime Union as their HQ in 1966; Arch: Albert C. Ledner). And possibly because when it was re-done for the hotel they built over and filled in the raised open-front plaza (which set off the big port-holed wall facing Ninth Avenue) and thereby somewhat marred the "side of an ocean liner" look that the building originally had.
A good article on the changes at building from Chelsea Now.
A shot of the plaza construction (seen in this thread's first post):