The London NYC (formerly RIHGA Royal
151 W. 54th St.,
New York, NY 10019
Bay windows and turrets at top provide the decorative touches for the pencil thin building.
In 1981, landowner Sol Goldman(said to be New York City’s largest private landlord in the mid-1980s) planned a 32-story apartment house on the site across the street from the New York Hilton. He was unable to get the project off the ground. Goldman brought in William Zeckendorf Jr. (a developer in the 770-room Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza on Broadway, between 48th and 49th Streets,) and Kumagai Gumi of Tokyo as partners in the mid 1980s.
They had architect Frank Williams design a 45-story building with a hotel on the upper floors and an office building on the lower floors. They could not find a tenant to sign on for the lower floors.
The group decided then to put the hotel on the bottom floors and apartments on top. This concept proved to complex for the site size to accommodate separate lobbies and elevators.
The group consulted with Charles A. Bell, a hotel consultant and former Hilton International executive, who advised an all-suite concept – to avoid head to head competition with the New York Hilton across the street.
The Zeckendorf Company’s partners in the $120 million project are Sol Goldman, the Manhattan investor and developer; Edward Lewis of Lewis & Brener, a hotel brokerage firm, and the Kumagai Gumi Company, Japanese contractors.
Zeckendorf enticed the SARA Group, a division of Swedish conglomerate, Procordia A.B. to operate the proposed hotel and make a significant financial commitment. It was to be called the Royal Concordia.
In 1986 Karl Hofer was named the pre-opening General Manager and Mal Seymourian named Director of Marketing. They convinced the developers to axe the health club and swimming pool designed for the top of the hotel – their position being visitors to New York did not come to swim.
The architect Frank Williams decided to use bay windows instead of standard windows. The NY Times quoted Williams ‘‘the new windows softened the building’s surface and added another dimension to the view from inside the rooms,” he said. ”The new design gives the building a romantic classical look that I think is reminiscent of the classical skyscrapers of the 1920’s and 30’s.”
Birch Coffey Design Associates (known for cruise ship interiors) was selected as the interior designer. He used light-colored, relatively monochromatic schemes, instead of heavy patterns and dark colors.
The 54 story hotel with a rose-beige brick and granite facade and was designed by Frank Williams and Associates, and the interior by Birch Coffey Design Associates.
Upon opening in 1990 the smallest suites – 572 square feet – with a separate living room had a rate of $260 to $390.00. Two bedroom suites with 720 square feet fetched $450.00 to $700.00.
The New York Times reported just before the 1990 opening the hotel known as the Royal Concordia was taken over by a Japanese chain, Royal Hotel Ltd. of Osaka. The new name – RIHGA Royal – is an acronym of Royal International Hotel Group and Associates.
The RIHGA Royal Hotel Group operates today in Japan with 10 hotels, its flagship is in Osaka. The first RIHGA Royal Hotel opened as the Hotel New Osaka on January 16, 1935, the city’s first world-class hotel.
In March 2001, the RIHGA Royal Hotel was purchased by Thayer Hotel Investors III with $135 million in first mortgage financing provided by German-based DePfa Bank (later known as Aareal Bank AG). The hotel was unencumbered by a hotel management company or a hotel flag. Thayer Hotel Investors III was formed in 2000 and acquired two hotels during 2001, the RIHGA Royal in New York City and the Grande Lakes Resort in Orlando.
Thayer planned to spend $10 million renovating the hotel and change the name to J.W. Marriott New York Hotel.
Thayer Hotel Investors re-named the 500-suite luxury hotel – J.W. Marriott New York Hotel – and the property was expected to serve as a flagship for the JW chain in the U.S.
Executive Chef Jose Velez and chef de cuisine Andy Arndt worked the acclaimed Halcyon Restaurant at the RIHGA Royal Hotel from 2001-2004. During this period the Halcyon received some of its best critical reviews since the opening in 1990.
Thayer commenced a phased renovation in 2001 of the first 100 of the 504 luxury suites, the restaurant, lounge, meeting and banquet areas, business center, and fitness room included new finishes, FF&E, and ADA accessibility upgrading. The renovation was completed in October 2002 without interruption of the hotel’s operation.
Loyal guests of the hotel were not pleased with Thayer’s dropping the RIHGA Royal name. Thayer quietly re-named the hotel – The RIHGA Royal – a JW Marriot Hotel.
Thayer Lodging Group missed the June 2004 payment on the hotel’s $135 million first mortgage. Some say Thayer defaulted as a result of weak revenues caused in part by branding issues over the past few years.
The Institutional Investor reported in August 2004 that Dallas-based Highgate Holdings backed off its plans to acquire the RIHGA Royal, a JW Marriott Hotel.
Highgate had agreed to pay approximately $220 million for the hotel, which owner Thayer Lodging acquired in April 2001 for $193 million. Highgate had planned to convert a portion of the property to luxury condominiums. Highgate’s due diligence determined it could not make the deal work.
Lehman Brothers has been assisting Thayer Lodging for a possible sale and provided a $45 million mezzanine loan. Some speculated that Thayer might hand the keys to hotel to Lehman.
In March 2005 Blackstone Real Estate Group Acquired the RIHGA Royal for $193,000,000 from Lehman Brothers. ($381,000 per room).
On June 18, 2005, Blackstone severed the hotel’s affiliation with J.W. Marriott Hotel Company and began operating as an independent hotel – The RIHGA Royal.
Blackstone appointed its affiliate Luxury Resort to operate the hotel. Luxury Resorts (LXR) was formed in 2005 when Blackstone split Wyndham Resorts and kept the Luxury Hotels and launched an IPO for Wyndham.
In a November 2005 press release LXR Luxury Resorts announced the complete redesign, refurbishment and repositioning of two of its properties, the RIHGA Royal Hotel in New York City and the Bel Age in West Hollywood, California, into The London NYC and The London LA respectively.
LXR Luxury Resorts contracted David Collins to transform the interiors of all guest rooms and public spaces and contracted with Chef Gordon Ramsay planning restaurants in both locations.
Jean-Jacques Pergant, Co-President, LXR Luxury Resorts, expects the London NYC to create a new standard for modern luxury.
David Collins was expected to create the unique DNA of what will become the London brand. His quote in the press release “Everything from the furniture to the lighting will create an entirely new spin on the hotels.” Collins plans to hand pick all the elements for guest bathrooms – glass tiles, marble surfaces, and porcelain fixtures with modern stainless steel fittings, linens and amenities.
The London NYC restaurant will offer Gordon Ramsay’s concept from his three-Michelin-star restaurant in London’s Chelsea. It will have around 45 seats and operate under chef de cuisine Markus Glocker. Glocker worked in the Chicago kitchen of Charlie Trotter’s for two years.
A Real Deal article states Blackstone sued Sol Goldman estate in August 2011 over a default notice the Goldman family filed against Blackstone due to 36 alleged violations at the London NYC hotel at 151 West 54th Street. The Real Deal article states Blackstone claims that most of the violations have been fixed and that it is waiting for paperwork from the Department of Buildings to fix nine other violations.
Tagged: , hotel , architecture , design , history , new , york , london NYC , city , rihga royal