NEW ORLEANS – The revered Roosevelt Hotel name – which for nearly a half-century meant the finest luxury accommodations, entertainment and dining, as well as world-famous beverages and celebrities – is returning to New Orleans, reborn as a Waldorf Astoria Collection Hotel.
The historic downtown New Orleans property, shuttered since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, originally opened in 1893 as the Grunewald. In 1923, it was rebranded as The Roosevelt in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt and retained its distinctive moniker until the hotel changed hands in 1965 and was renamed The Fairmont.
The grand hotel will reopen in the summer of 2009 with 504 rooms, of which 135 will be luxury suites, some named for celebrities who once visited the hotel; signature fine-dining and cocktail venues; an entertainment space guaranteed to rival any other in the Gulf South; state-of-the-art meeting and convention rooms; and a 12,000-square-foot, world-class spa and fitness center.
Other amenities designed to position The Roosevelt New Orleans as a destination favored by travelers include a comprehensive business center, private dining and suite butler service, an outdoor pool and courtyard, and a specialty gift shop.
The cost of the renovation, which includes every detail from restored chandeliers to first-class accommodations, is expected to exceed $145-million, making the project one of the largest private investments in downtown New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina and one of the most significant projects in years for the city’s hospitality industry.
"For generations, New Orleanians and visitors from around the world called on The Roosevelt because of its reputation for glamour, excitement and comfort,” said Sam Friedman, a member of ownership group First Class Hotels LLC. “Our goal is to return The Roosevelt to its original luster and bring back its fabled splendor. As a Waldorf Astoria Collection Hotel and with the experienced management team we’ve assembled, we know that both the community and our guests will be pleased.”
Tod Chambers, general manager of The Roosevelt, pointed out that the renovation, already well under way, consists of a “meticulous makeover that will allow the legendary architectural and decorative details of the 115-year-old landmark to sparkle once again while incorporating technology and amenities that today’s visitors and meeting planners expect and need."
Through more than a century of operation, The Roosevelt New Orleans served as the backdrop for many historic events and often made history in its own right. One of the hotel's devotees was famed Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, who spent so much time at The Roosevelt that Louisiana legend records that he even built a 90-mile highway directly from the state capitol in Baton Rouge to the hotel. The Roosevelt also is known to hotel aficionados the world over as having inspired Arthur Haley's best-selling 1965 novel “Hotel.”
Key among plans to restore the property to its previous grandeur and appeal will be the reopening of the hotel's famed Blue Room and legendary Sazerac Bar.
In the golden era of supper clubs from the 1930s to the 1960s, the Blue Room played host to some of the best-known names in entertainment and big bands – including Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, and Sonny and Cher – as well as to elaborate floor shows. With gleaming chandeliers and polished architectural details, the reopened Blue Room once again will host live entertainment that appeals to all ages.
The Sazerac Bar, a Roosevelt landmark for decades, again will serve its signature Sazerac cocktail and Ramos Gin Fizz—both invented in New Orleans and made popular worldwide by The Roosevelt—among other delights. In addition to beverages that stimulate the palate, patrons again will be able to enjoy the Art Deco-style murals by artist Paul Ninas and woodwork once held in awe by visitors.
With more than a century of experience in hosting meetings and catered events for U.S. presidents, foreign heads of state and global corporate directors, the hotel will include 63,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including the spacious 20,124-square-foot Roosevelt Ballroom, 12,204-square-foot Crescent City Ballroom and 6,776-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Ballroom, along with a total of 23 distinctive meeting and event rooms.
“The Roosevelt New Orleans will offer state-of-the-art technology designed to accommodate meetings of all sizes,” said Mark Wilson, director of sales and marketing. “By offering unique and flexible meeting and convention space, The Roosevelt New Orleans will enhance the city’s ability to host events of all sizes and be a driving force for convention and catering business.”
As an indication of the hotel’s beloved role in community life, The Roosevelt New Orleans also will reprise the extravagant lobby holiday decorations and experiences that enchanted children and adults for decades and served as a destination for families.
The architect for the renovation is Steven J. Finegan Architects of New Orleans, and the construction manager is Brice Building Co. of Metairie.
Memories of The Roosevelt can be logged at the hotel’s blog site: www.therooseveltneworleans.com/blog.