In New York City, there's no shortage of extended-stay hotels or mixed-use developments. And at the Pod Times Square, elements from both these concepts can be found uniquely blended in the hotel's Pod Pads.
The Midtown property is the largest Pod Hotel in the country and, as BD Hotels was developing it, the team wondered if 765 guestrooms actually were needed; the answer seemed to be no. So, said Pod Hotels co-founder Richard Born, they decided to take the top five floors of the hotel and try something different, sacrificing 100 guestrooms in the process.
“Whereas most traditional hotels may mix suites in with their rooms, the Pod customer is not a suite customer,” said Born. “The whole concept behind it is mini-rooms, so we said, ‘How can we add some bigger units that would be synergistic with the Pod customer?’” After playing around with different concepts, the team opted for compact-size apartments—designed and sized along the lines of a traditional Pod guestroom, but with dedicated areas for living, dining and sleeping.
The end result is 45 units, mostly one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 600 to 800 square feet. The Pod Pads rent for $4,000 per month, payable in advance by credit card.
Born hopes this will attract a different clientele. He noted when renting an apartment in New York City, potential tenants have to first find an apartment, write a deposit check, submit credit history, get letters from previous landlords and then wait to be approved before they can pay the broker's fee and start moving in. This seemed needlessly convoluted to Born and his team. “Why all the complication to give someone the keys to an apartment when hotel companies give hundreds of thousands of people keys to their hotel rooms merely because they swiped a credit card and clicked something online?’” Born recalled thinking. “So we decided to rent apartments the same way people rent hotel rooms.”
Apartment Hotel Rooms
Even though they are treated as apartments, the Pod Pads do come with some hotel perks. Tenants, like the hotel's guests, get priority access to The Polynesian, the property’s tiki-themed bar, with a charge account, as well as housekeeping, cable, WiFi and access to the hotel’s concierge. Housekeeping is available as needed, and all Pads have safes for storing valuables. Tenants also get some exclusive experiences, like a dedicated laundry room, fitness center and top-floor lounge looking out over the city.
While balancing apartment tenants and hotel guests may seem like a tightrope act, Born feels working with longer-term residents is the easier of the two responsibilities. “Someone who lives in that building is more familiar with everybody,” said Born. “He knows the bartender, he knows the waiters, he knows the maitre d’.”
One element of offering hotel-level services to apartment tenants that the team had not expected, however, was how often the Pad residents took advantage of the hotel’s concierge. “The Pod, by definition, is a moderately priced hotel,” he said. “You usually don't see that in this price point. They really liked the idea that they can sit around and chat about what's going on in the city. We've seen a real welcoming of the hotel lifestyle with longer-term residents.”
The apartments come in three layout options: one bedroom, one bath; small two bedroom, two bath; and large two bedroom, two bath. The design concept, said Born, was inspired from the guestrooms below. “The regular hotel room is 120-square-feet and it's very efficiently designed,” he said. “It's all very modular, very built-in and compact. A Pod Pad will have the exact same bedroom with the bathroom that you have in a hotel room off the small living room with a little dining area and kitchen. The two bedrooms will have two 120-square-foot bedrooms, each with a bathroom on either side of that living space.”
While the apartments are smaller than city standards, he said, the design and furnishings maximize the use of space. The “mid-century modern” aesthetic includes walnut flooring, Maharam living-room rugs, and Kitchenaid-branded appliances in the kitchens. Bathrooms, Born said, are made of stone, Corian, chrome and sliding glass doors. The “sleek” kitchen, he said, is open to the living room and has a full-size dishwasher, refrigerator, oven and microwave. “We have dishes and we have coffee-makers and everything you need,” he said. “The idea is that you come here with your toiletries and you live as if you’re home.”
The 45 Pod Pads opened for rental in early June, and 15 tenants signed on within a month. “Many people rented just for 30 days and then extended it for 60 or 90 days,” Born said, noting that the Pads now have two tenants who have signed on for six months. “So much of today's world is about mixing work and play and hospitality and living, and I think we created a little bit of a hybrid.”