Times Square May Never Be Cool, But Its New Edition Hotel Is Hot
In the middle of Midtown Manhattan, a new hotel has just opened. For some, it's the ultimate harbinger of cooler times in a decidedly uncool neighborhood: The Times Square Edition.
Ian Schrager, nightlife-purveyor-turned-corporate-hotelier, said he isn't bothered by skeptics who scoff at the idea that a Times Square hotel can be a place that attracts in-the-know New Yorkers.
"[If you] build something special, people will come," he said Wednesday during a press conference in the hotel's indoor garden. "It happened in Tribeca, which was a truck stop."
Times Square — and Midtown on the whole — is the last place any self-respecting New Yorker would be caught after office hours, never mind going out of their way to get there. Why, then, did Schrager, co-founder of Studio 54 and the hotelier responsible (in partnership with Marriott) for the uber-trendy Edition chain of hotels (and father of the boutique hotel with Morgans Hotel Group), choose the middle of the untrendy neighborhood for the newest Edition property?
Perhaps it's because, for better or worse, Times Square creates a buzz like few other places on Earth can. Because when you're standing in the center of Times Square, you're standing at the Crossroads of the World, where people from all corners of the planet dream to be standing at some point in their lives.
"Times Square never lost its allure to people outside the city," Schrager said.
So maybe, just maybe, Schrager is onto something by putting the latest outpost of his Edition brand there. If anyone could give Times Square the sense of relevance that others have failed to create, it's Schrager. After all, he was the last person to get the public truly excited about Midtown Manhattan, with his legendary nightclub Studio 54, which drew crowds practically every night of the week from all over New York. And New Jersey. And Connecticut.
For as much as New Yorkers bemoan the ceaseless crowds of selfie-stick-wielding tourists, the fact remains that hotels are better off when they are filled by travelers with deep pockets. Times Square has no lack of those. Visitors have long spent stacks of money to stay at overwhelmingly mediocre properties in the this stretch of Manhattan. But the Edition promises to change that by delivering truly luxurious accommodations -- complete with a dining scene that has Michelin-star ambitions -- to this oft-overlooked pocket of the city.
With the hotel having just opened for guests on Tuesday, TPG travel editor Melanie Lieberman and I were eager to head uptown into unfamiliar territory (seriously, though, we never get far above TPG HQ at 20th Street) to see if the Edition is poised to make Times Square cool, or if it simply will be a hotel where well-heeled visitors can rest their heads at night.
New York Crossroads
The 452-room Times Square Edition occupies a prime spot of Times Square real estate. Situated on the corner of West 47th Street and Seventh Avenue, its neighbors include the W Times Square, the Palace Theater, the New York Marriott Marquis and several other properties, theaters and tourist attractions. As it's Times Square, the surrounding area is loud, busy and not exactly picturesque -- we hopped out of our Uber at the corner of W. 47th and Sixth Avenue and walked through dark scaffolding and past a loud construction site to access the entrance of the hotel, which was, in true Times Square fashion, set off by a tall, neon banner announcing the hotel to any passersby.
Big Apple, Big Prices
This won't come as a surprise to anyone, but cash rates at the Times Square Edition aren't cheap -- we're currently in the low season in New York City, and the cheapest price for a one-night stay I could find in the next couple of months was $306 — but that was without the $50-plus in taxes and fees.
Oh, and yes, there's a "destination amenity fee" of $35 per night. So if you're searching for paid stays, you should add at least $100 to the number you see to get an accurate idea of what you'll actually be paying.
If you're looking to use your Marriott Bonvoy points, this property is a Category 7, meaning you'll need 60,000 points for a free night. Once peak and off-peak pricing is implemented, you can expect to pay 50,000 in the off-peak season and up to 70,000 during peak travel times.
The property occupies a new building that houses just the hotel -- once you enter off of W. 47th Street, there's a noticeable and immediate calming effect, with the hotel's double doors opening onto a long, white hallway with a large, green orb at the end. To the right is a bank of elevators to carry you to the lobby and public spaces.
The hotel's lobby is a relatively small space, framed by plant-covered walls both behind the check-in desk and a black scissor staircase, a departure from the typical circular staircases that are in other Edition properties.
At the top of the staircase lies the cocktail lounge of the hotel's vegetable-driven main restaurant, 701West, which is helmed by chef John Fraser (of Michelin-starred Nix and other New York hotspots).
Back on the 10th floor, there are two distinct spaces. There's the Black Room -- an intimate sitting area with black horsehair and leather chairs, as well as black steel fireplace — and the White Room, the hotel's lobby bar.
The centerpiece is a white onyx bar counter and a wall of crystal decanters. While we ogled the gorgeous space, the bartender leaned over and told us that onyx is supposed to encourage relaxation. Add a wine spritzer (or three) and you might just forget you're in Times Square.
Melanie and I worked up an appetite after checking out the hotel, so we came back here later to plug in, work, and try a few drinks and small food items. You'll want to order the miniature tuna tartare lettuce cups. Skip the shishito peppers.
The black-and-white lobby floor is perhaps the most explicit representation of Schrager's Times Square: a combination of high- and low-brow, the chaos and calm and a neighborhood defined by immense contrasts.
Down on the the ninth floor, travelers will find more public spaces. It's divided into the hotel's all-day restaurant, The Terrace; a gorgeous bar with a vaulted ceiling, an antique mirror and red-velvet barstools; an indoor garden space adorned with a staggering amount of greenery; and an outdoor, covered terrace with picnic tables and a dizzying number of beers on tap.
All of these spaces scream the Edition brand, far more than they do Times Square, or even New York City.
The indoor garden space was one of the few places at the hotel where I remembered that we were in Times Square -- it was loud, thanks to a nearby construction site as well as the constant hum of activity on the streets below.
And, of course, any time I ventured outside, there was no mistaking it -- I was right in the thick of it. From above, it wasn't bad — even as a New Yorker, I was in awe of the scene of Times Square below. Just don't ask me to walk through it during the after-work rush hour.
We were able to look at a room, too, though it was a premium balcony suite, of which the hotel only has 26, so it wasn't the best representation of what a typical room at the property will be like. (We'll be back to give the property a full review soon.)
What you can expect, though, is a very typical Edition design scheme, with bleached-oak floors, a faux-fur throw on the bed, crisp, white linens and an overall minimalist aesthetic.
Standard guest rooms measure about 210 square feet, while the room we saw was more than double that at 450 square feet. Also, the standard rooms will only have a stand-up shower, while the suite we saw had an (admittedly gorgeous) soaking tub.
And, of course, this wouldn’t be a Schrager property if it didn’t have a centerpiece nightlife experience. The Paradise Club was a natural move for Schrager’s return to Midtown Manhattan after the closure of Studio 54 in 1980 — but he doesn't want you to call it a nightclub.
We weren’t able to get a peek inside (most of the hotel's public spaces had been commandeered for a week of opening parties, meetings and dinners), but there's a 17,000-square-foot LED Jumbotron that broadcasts the performances, and other programming, on the building's exterior.
The hotel teamed up with House of Yes, from Brooklyn, for the entertainment. (Everything from cabaret to circus acts, dance productions, theater and magic.) This move may be to give The Paradise Club street cred in the minds of discerning partygoers — if Bushwick could happen, why can’t Times Square?
First impressions would lead anyone to believe this property could be the key to making Times Square cool again. According to Schrager, the "product matters. Nothing else." With that logic, New Yorkers in pursuit of "the scene" will be flocking to the newest Edition property.
Really, though, the joke's on all of us. Times Square will probably never be "cool" with locals. And Schrager -- and Marriott -- probably won't care all that much. Judging by how pricey and occupied other hotels in the area typically are, this property will have no problem filling its rooms -- and turning a healthy profit.