Years ago, Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson walked into a conference luncheon in time to hear the keynote speaker, hospitality innovator Ian Schrager, talk about his ideas for running a business. “I’m trying to do everything the opposite way Marriott does it,” Sorenson remembers Schrager saying.
That was then. In the intervening years, the stars aligned to bring Schrager and Marriott together to develop the luxury Edition brand and open hotels around the world—most recently in New York City’s Midtown, with the new 452-guestroom Times Square Edition Hotel.
High Times and Low Times
The Times Square neighborhood that has gone through several cycles of squalor and elegance. “It was always a combination of highbrow and lowbrow, and when you put those two together, that’s when the magic happens,” Schrager said at a March press conference to celebrate the opening of the hotel.
During one of the neighborhood’s downturns, Schrager noted, Marriott took a risk and opened the Marquis hotel on Broadway. “It was a very nervy thing for them to do,” he said, recalling the negative reputation Times Square had at the time. But private investment in the neighborhood paved the way for more development, and today it is once again the “crossroads of the world”—and ready for a full-service luxury hotel.
While Marriott was bringing tourists back to Times Square, Schrager also was taking risks, developing the concept of boutique lifestyle hospitality with the Morgan, Royalton and Paramount hotels. With each successful opening, his influence reverberated throughout the industry, and large companies like Marriott began to take notice. “It became clear there was something about this space that really turned travelers on and turned local folks on,” said Sorenson. In 2006, Schrager and Marriott tentatively began talking about joining forces, and Marriott entered the lifestyle hotel sector with the Edition brand. “Our reputation historically wouldn’t have suggested that we have the expertise or the permission to get into [the lifestyle segment],” Sorenson said. “Ian gave us both.”
A Perfect Pairing
A dozen years and 10 hotels later, Schrager and Sorenson have learned how to bring out the best in one another. “We’ve learned through economic cycles, we’ve learned through individual hotel projects to make sure that we are working in a way that accentuates the strengths we both bring.”
All of which brings them to this moment, sitting in the hotel’s 701 West restaurant, overseen by Michelin-starred chef John Fraser, talking about the viability of a second Edition hotel in Manhattan (after adapting the city’s iconic MetLife Clock Tower into the first). There is no shortage of demand for accommodation, Sorenson argued, noting that existing hotels in the area already are at 90 percent occupancy. What is lacking, both men agreed, is a contemporary luxury hotel that will attract a new generation of travelers willing to pay top dollar—and who expect bragging rights in return.
Those bragging rights include meals from Fraser, touted as “the first Michelin-starred chef ever in Times Square.” The menu reportedly was inspired by classical French, Asian and Latin fare. Other “Instagrammable” features include a “decompression zone” entrance hallway with a custom floating green mirrored stainless sphere “inspired by Anish Kapoor and the colors of Jeff Koons,” or the Bladerunner Terraces that overlook Times Square.
All of these millennial-friendly features may catch travelers’ eyes, but can they get locals to see Times Square as anything other than a tourist trap again? This is where Schrager’s expertise with nightlife comes in: The hotel will include the Paradise Club, a new nightlife venue from Anya Sapozhnikova, Justin Conte, Matthew Dailey and Kae Burke of House of Yes in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with entertainment that will integrate theater (apropos for Times Square) and performance art, incorporating dance, voice, aerial acrobatics, choreography, costume design and magic. (The space also will include a regular ongoing performance based on William Blake’s "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.")
Rather than worry about what neighborhoods are popular with travelers and locals, Schrager has a “Field of Dreams” philosophy toward hospitality development: “Build something special and people will come,” he said. “A hotel can be very successful serving travelers only, but the magic is if you bring travelers and locals together.”
Times Square Edition Fast Facts
New York City’s Times Square, popularly known as the Crossroads of the World, within walking distance of all Broadway theaters, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and all the tourist attractions in midtown.
NUMBER OF ROOMS
Entities controlled by Maefield Development & Mark Siffin