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Times Square hotel to get ‘top-to-bottom’ redo

NEW YORK – USA TODAY has learned some exciting details about the massive makeover planned for the currently so-so Novotel Times Square.

French hospitality giant Accor, which runs the Novotel brand, had in February said its only Novotel hotel in the USA will undergo a $115 million revamp.

But now, we’ve learned that the Euro-style hotel will be made over by architecture and design firm Stonehill Taylor, the firm responsible for shaping the distinctive looks of several of New York’s hottest boutique hotels at the moment.

The New York-based firm has in the past few years worked on the Crosby Street Hotel, the Ace Hotel and the NoMad Hotel, which opened this week in a 1903 former office building.

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“We’re doing a complete, top-to-bottom renovation,” Michael Suomi, vice principal at Stonehill Taylor, told me in an interview.

The goal, he said, is to continue to appeal to the hotel’s core audience of French travelers – who make up about 50% of guests – while expanding the hotel’s appeal to U.S. business travelers.

If the Novotel’s renovation budget stays at $115 million, it will be a significant amount given that it has just 480 rooms.

By contrast, the New York Palace has announced a $100 million makeover that includes its 900 rooms. And the New York Sheraton Hotel Towers – a block away from the Novotel – is wrapping up a $160 million renovation that includes its 1,780 rooms.

Accor wants this hotel to stand out, so one of Stonehill Taylor’s tasks is to give the building a new exterior worthy of “iconic” status, Suomi said. He couldn’t reveal other details yet, because “we’re just starting the design process.”

The hotel opened in 1984 on the edge of Times Square but still in a spot with some commanding views (see above photo) of one of the world’s most famous destinations – especially from its lobby terrace.

The ‘before’ picture at the Novotel

Today, the Novotel hotel’s packed with budget-conscious Europeans primarily there on holiday. It’s a crowd that’s typically more willing than business travelers to overlook shortcomings for a good deal.

It’s currently ranked No. 163 out of 432 New York hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor.

Most of the recent reviewers give the Novotel a good-for-the-money type of review – and several rave about its “great location.”

But some TripAdvisor writers have been less kind about their experience.

On March 19, for example, one guest wrote about staying in a 19th-floor room that “was in big need of renovation. The carpet was dirty, the coffee table was rusted, the love seat in the room was very dirty, and the bathroom needed to have tile re-grouting. Even the electrical plate near the sink was cracked.”

A glimpse at the ‘after’

Once complete, the hotel will have a theme of renewal to reflect its iconic location as “the” place to welcome the New Year – at least in the USA.

“With the backdrop of Times Square, we picked its most iconic moment, the New Year’s Eve celebrations, as our inspiration for the design,” Suomi said. “Times Square is one of world’s most famous locales to celebrate new beginnings.”

They plan to focus on unique cultural traditions used to celebrate the new year around the world. For example, he said, Scandinavian countries have a tradition of pouring melted wax into cold water and then using the hardened form that it takes to predict the new year’s fortunes.

On the less-sexy side, the renovation also will focus on improving what the guest feels vs. sees.

The 480 rooms, for instance, will get a new cooling and heating system that will let guests control the temperature themselves.

“That’s a huge project all by itself,” he said.

The hotel currently has no suites, so the revamp also will fix that problem.

Combine French style with U.S. business travelers’ functionality

Because 50% of the Novotel’s occupancy comes from France, he says the firm will work closely with Accor to develop a style that’s still attractive to French guests while appealing to higher-paying American business travelers.

Because its location straddles Midtown and Times Square, accommodating an American business traveler is a goal that makes sense and something that hadn’t previously been done, he says.

Plan for lobby terrace

Once the job’s complete, perhaps the most visible change for many guests will be the hotel’s lobby on the 7th floor.

The goal is to integrate the lobby so that you can have cocktails, work, relax or meet with colleagues or friends anywhere – a current trend in hotels.

The lobby area will also be given a better connection to the outdoor, wrap-around terrace that has spectacular views of Times Square so that it becomes a sought-after, after-work destination for New Yorkers, Suomi told me.

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