Sentry Centers, the largest provider of dedicated conference centers in New York
, recently announced plans to open 32 Old Slip, a new 38,750-square-foot facility in downtown Manhattan. The former Goldman Sachs training facility will open in December after a $3.6 million renovation with 11 meeting rooms for groups from eight to 275 attendees, and is taking bookings for January 2013, says Sentry Centers principal and cofounder Chris Kelly.
"It's an opportunity for us to create a whole new meetings product," Kelly says. "We're 100 percent meetings and conferences focused. It's a 9 to 5-type space."
Kelly says Sentry Centers' focus is less on the specific industry of the group, and more on providing the space that keeps the purpose of their meeting in mind and best helps them achieve their business goal. "We've created an environment where these meetings can be more productive," says Kelly. "Our mindset has shifted from selling the combination of tables, chairs and walls, and we've really looked at it how we can be a provider of more productive and efficient experiences."
"[Sentry Centers]' core clients are the Fortune 1000 and the companies that support and serve that collective of companies, their consultants and vendors," Kelly says. The network of conference centers has 110,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space in Manhattan and offers in-house services including meeting planning, food and beverage, audiovisual and information technology.
Kelly has observed the major types of meetings and says that 32 Old Slip is designed to easily accommodate all of them:
"There's the informational or communicative meeting, which tends to be a large meeting that requires audiovisual and podiums. In the generative or creative meeting, there are almost always under 10 attendees, and they need ample space for their ideas and resources and materials put up on the walls and surrounding them.
"And in an evaluative meeting, it's a board meeting, usually of 25 and under, where you often have a video or audio conference, and they might pull up a PowerPoint presentation."
The overall theme to all of these types of meetings, Kelly says, is their "social component." He explains that "this isn't the time for [groups] to just achieve an intended meeting objective, it's also the best time to provide space and time for an informal cross-pollination of ideas and experiences. The most valuable [elements] happen in between, before and after [the meeting], and we've designed those spaces with as much attention as we have the meeting rooms."