NEW YORK — And so the gentrification of the East Village continues. The newest plan for what was once considered Manhattan’s seedier side is a new luxury property from hotelier Greg Peck, who opened the posh Crescent Beverly Hills in Los Angeles two years ago.
The hotel, Cooper Square, will be located where Third and Fourth Avenues merge and across the street from the offices of that downtown institution, The Village Voice. The vacant residential building that sits there now will be torn down, Peck said, and construction crews will start rebuilding in December for a February 2007 completion. Although that’s almost two years away, Peck already has a pretty concrete, if not lofty, vision for his latest project.
“We’re thinking of it as the downtown Four Seasons,” he said, sitting in the lobby of the actual Four Seasons hotel on 57th Street. “It’ll be a combination of modern sensibility and design with old-world service.”
Hospitality is a critical issue for Peck (who is not named after the late actor: “My parents knew what they were doing, they just didn’t care”). It’s something that he thinks is missing from the type of designer hotels made popular by Ian Schrager and Andre Balazs, two of his old bosses. “[Those hotels] are glamorous and fun and people enjoy themselves,” he said diplomatically. “But people still want to be pampered, they still want people to know their names.”
To ensure his new property will exude the level of service he’s looking for, Peck is putting a new twist on check-in. Rather than work from computers behind a tall counter, the staff will sit with visitors in a reception area where they will sip coffee, tea, wine or champagne and inform the guests about the hotel, while staff in a back room will register their information and prepare a room key. Attentive service like this doesn’t come cheap, however. Rooms will start at $350 a night.
Still, Peck is not concerned with pricing the hotel out of the neighborhood — consider the success of the superexclusive celeb-hideaway Mercer Hotel a few blocks away. Cooper Square will have a destination restaurant, he said, and “fantastic views,” since, at 18 stories, it will be the tallest building in the area. The interior will be designed by Antonio Citterio, who also worked on the Hotel Bulgari in Milan and the De Beers store in London. Carlos Lupita is the architect.
“I want it to be iconic,” Peck said of the hotel. When people refer to it by name, he added, he wants them to immediately envision its exterior.
But Peck doesn’t intend to limit himself by shooting for iconic. He plans to build hotels throughout the country through his company, LoungeSleep Hotels. He’s looking at Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas — what he refers to as “underserved urban cities.” Each LoungeSleep Hotels property will reflect its home city’s unique history and personality. Over the next five years, Peck aims to add three more hotels to his roster.
His focus now, however, is on bringing attention and a new upscale clientele to Cooper Square. “Most cab drivers don’t even know where it is,” he said, “so we’ll put it on the map.”