Travelers seeking to plunge themselves into the pulse of New York City’s famed Times Square area need only book a stay at Row NYC, an independent hotel that prides itself on offering guests an immersive experience in the very heart of Manhattan. While the coveted location, itself, has operated under various identities of yore, including the Lincoln, the Manhattan and, most recently, the Milford Plaza, March 2014 saw the hotel’s debut as the Row NYC. The opening was the culmination of a two-year, $140 million re-development effort. The result is a one-of-a-kind property that seeks to embody and exude the New York City experience at nearly every guest touch-point.
"We took the unique approach of inviting the city into the property and giving our guests exactly what they want, the ultimate New York City experience versus creating a sanctuary or retreat. We do this by embracing all things art, culinary, design, culture, even pop-culture,” explained Heidi Avedisian, Curator and Brand Strategist for Row NYC regarding the hotel’s design direction. “Many of the hotels surrounding Row NYC are part of large branded chains, but our hotel only has this one location, giving us a lot of creative freedom. We made sure that guests experience New York the minute they arrive at Row NYC.”
Indeed, the property enthralls from the moment guests enter the ever-bustling lobby, which has a 24-foot high crystalline glass façade and décor elements that feature earthy and industrial materials. Once in the front door, an illuminated grand staircase sits under a wooden slatted, umbrella-like ceiling that creates warmth, drama and visual appeal. The stairs lead up to the lobby area, where the registration and concierge desks reside, the first stop in what essentially becomes an NYC art exhibition.
"Located next to reception, you’ll find the striking work of New York-based artist Yorgo Alexopoulos projecting on two light sculpture walls that depict what it’s like to move through the course of a New York City day,” Avedisian continues. “Think driving through the Lincoln Tunnel and passing gargoyles atop Upper West Side landmarks. Not only do we want our guests to perceive the artwork, but we want them to be a part of it. This was the driving idea behind The Bosco Photo Booth and Cube Structure.”
“Row NYC commissioned the first-ever Cube Structure by The Bosco. Essentially guests take their photo in our photo booth and in real time their pictures are projected onto a large 3D cube structure in the lobby. Even when they are out exploring the city, they can take photos and send them back to the cubes by using our hashtag #MoreNYthanNY. It’s just another unique way to let the city in through the eyes of our guests,” stated Avedisian.
Visitors of District M, the hotel’s lobby-level, European express café by day and cocktail lounge by night, are treated to Row NYC’s most prominent and captivating art feature: the commissioned digital art gallery by paparazzo extraordinaire Ron Galella. This one-of-a-kind gallery features Galella’s most well-known images that capture celebrity life in New York during the late ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, including his most iconic black and white shots of Jackie O, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, John Lennon and more. “It’s a moment in time that we all know of, even if you weren’t there, when celebrities were less jaded and possessed a lot more mystery and glamour,” Avedisian noted.
In its good fortune, the hotel also gained access to never-before-seen photographs by Galella and proceeded to design a penthouse suite coined The Paparazzi Project in his honor to showcase these exclusive images. An experience unto itself, the 1,000-square-foot suite not only features his work, but a stay in it will make any guest feel like a star in their own right. The space comes with an actual paparazzo from Getty Images who, for two hours, will capture the guests' candid moments both in the hotel and around Times Square. The experience also includes a hair stylist and makeup artist to create a look worthy of a night out on the town. Designed by Avedisian herself, the suite's luxurious décor, rife with cut marble, crystal, dark hardwood floors, white leather and palm leaves, is the epitome of old Hollywood style and glamour.
Overall, the hotel features a total of 1,331 contemporary, urban-chic-styled rooms that are compact and cozy, with many boasting city views. Even walking through the upper guest floor hallways offers a quintessential NYC experience. During the design phase, a photographer was commissioned to capture true life images in SoHo, the East Village, Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side and the Meatpacking District. The resulting photos flank the hotel's upper floor corridors as floor-to-ceiling murals, providing guests with what Avedisian refers to as, "a walking tour" of NYC's downtown neighborhoods and iconic destinations as they make their way to their rooms.
Of course, guests cannot sustain themselves on art alone, so Row NYC does offer on-site epicurean amenities. While the hotel does not provide room service, Avedisian notes that at District M, they offer fine NYC pastries from Payard, Balthazar and Pain d’Avignon in the morning hours as well as La Colombe coffee. At night the café serves a bar food menu, including hand-stretched Neapolitan pizzas, and cheese and charcuterie plates from the famed Murray’s.
“We keep it simple, and we keep it at a very high-quality level,” Avedisian offers, along with a glimpse into the hotel’s culinary future. “In early 2015, we’re expanding our food footprint with the launch of an interior food market, City Kitchen. We scoured each NYC neighborhood, even the food trucks, and the boroughs to find restaurateurs with truly crave-worthy items, and we are bringing them all under one compelling roof in Times Square—an area long known for its mediocre food. It’s going to be ground breaking for the neighborhood and I’m excited to give locals the food options they are looking for, as well as expose our guests to some of the most tried-and-true NYC food concepts. The main goal is to keep Row NYC true to New York and continuously evolve right along with this great and dynamic city."
Also on site is Iconic M, a one-stop-shop for everyday essentials that’s open 24/7, as well as a state-of-the-art Apple device-powered Internet lounge in the lobby. With a location to die for and a vibe that melds the city’s signature urban grit with a sleek and modern hospitality guise, it’s no wonder that celebrities including Kristin Cavallari, Toni Colette, Wyclef Jean, Lizzy Jagger and Carmen Electra have reportedly stayed at Row NYC. It's a truly unique property with just one location in one of the most iconic destinations in the world. Here, the hotel is free to be itself, which, incidentally, is a direct reflection of the vibrant and eclectic city that surrounds it.