Meeting Sites: New York City

Last year, the BIG APPLE played host to 46 million visitors, and it has every expectation of hitting the 50 million mark within the next couple of years. Since city hotel rooms are at a premium, city restaurants are packed, and—surprise! —the Javits expansion is again on hold, putting together a program in this hot, hot, destination can be a challenge. However, it is not impossible; our Home Team has come up with some great ideas.

Patrick Sullivan, president of PRA New York, thinks the Museum of Natural History makes a fantastic off-site venue for 500, along with dining at the famous Tavern on the Green. (Afterwards, everyone can get up bright and early to tour Ellis Island.)

For groups of 100, South Street Seaport's Bridgewaters is an elegant venue and restaurant, as is midtown's Remi; for fewer than 100, the New York Public Library is an amazing venue for receptions, as is City Hall, a sophisticated TriBeCa eatery. Since shopping and culture are as "New York" as breathing, Sullivan recommends Shop Gotham's walking and shopping tours and Broadway Behind the Scenes' backstage tours. For the energetic, there's Bike New York and bowling at Bowlmor Lanes.

From the folks at Briggs Inc. come three itineraries, for the VIP, the sophisticated, and the frugal, respectively (but all featuring a Broadway show). The "VIP" is an incentive package that includes pre-theater dinner at the Michelin two-star Le Bernardin, and a preopening champagne breakfast at Saks Fifth Avenue complete with the services of a personal shopper. "Sophisticated" includes a selection of fine restaurants and a docent-led tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Frugal" includes a variety of tours, and lunch in the United Nations Delegates' Dining Room.

Essential Tool Box
Convention Centers:
Jacob K. Javits Convention Center: 814,400 sf of dedicated meeting space, with 99 meeting rooms, largest accommodating 5,240 theater-style; Madison Square Garden Expo Center: 61,000 sf of dedicated meeting space, with 10 meeting rooms, largest accommodating 19,522 theater-style; Radio City Music Hall: 3,000-seat theater with 4 meeting rooms.

For more listings, visit Facility Quick Search at

Average Daily Business Travel Costs*:
Hotel $314.91
F&B $109.27
Car Rental $145.71

For More Information:
NYC & Co.

*2007 Business Travel News Corporate Travel Index

Just when you think the Javits Center expansion is moving forward, it takes a giant step backward. At presstime, the $1.8 billion expansion, which last year was put under review by the then new governor, Eliot Spitzer, has been downsized to $1.6 billion. The governor has also countered with a new plan to sell two lots of land next to Javits for $800 million, which would effectively eliminate hopes for a horizontal expansion. And since the new bill would need to be approved by Spitzer's bitter rival, State Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno, planners should not look for resolution any time soon. More happily, the Javits will move forward with a renovation of existing space.

The 1,700-room Hotel Pennsylvania expects to complete its planned $7 million renovation in 2008. The renovations include exterior improvements; new soft goods in guest rooms; flat-screen TVs and iPod docking radios in Penn 5000 Club guest rooms; and upgrades to the Gold Ballroom and its prefunction space.

* In Jan, the 200-room Pierre entered Phase II of a $100 million renovation that will close guest rooms until 2009 but will not affect banquet business and meeting space.(Similarly, The Plaza's 35,000 sf of meeting space is open as that property's renovation draws close to completion.)

* The 310-room Renaissance New York Times Square completed a $24 million renovation that has made over the entire property.

* Completion is expected this Aug on the 860-room New Yorker's $65 million renovation that includes the remodeling of all guest rooms, restaurants, and 25,000 sf of meeting space.

Position is everything, so when you come to the Big Apple, you want to be on top of it all.

Here's the latest news on some of New York's top suites:
* This month, the 561-suite London NYC will introduce the 2,500-sf, duplex London Penthouse—the highest room in New York—and debut the London Sky Suites on floors 53 and 54.

* The presidential suite at the 1,235-room Waldorf=Astoria has been the official New York residence of each standing president since Hoover. In honor of that legacy, Executive Chef John Doherty, who has cooked for every president since Reagan, has created a menu of presidential favorites, which is available to all suite-dwellers (as well as private-room diners at the downstairs Bull & Bear).

* The 186-room Kimberly New York's 1,150-sf penthouse suite extends the entire length of the hotel's top floor and is surrounded by a wraparound veranda that offers panoramic views of Manhattan's Upper East Side.

* At the legendary 187-room Carlyle, the Trianon and Versailles banquet suites have been refreshed. Connected by a glamorous lobby, the suites comprise 3,781 sf.

* Last year, the 569-room Millenium Hilton renovated its presidential suite, removing the guest room accommodations to create a posh meeting and special event space. The suite features north-, west-, and east-facing city views from the penthouse level, the hotel's 55th floor.

The Rubin Museum of Art (RMA), which houses more than 2,000 Himalayan works of art, has a state-of-the-art theater and a 3,850-sf colonnade that can be used for dinners and receptions.

A Look into the Crystal Apple
Joseph Guay, a partner in real estate practice with the firm of Holland & Knight, sheds light on the New York's hotel future:

SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS: What's going to happen in the next few years?

JOE GUAY: There are hotels in development right now with residential components that will bring a number of hotel rooms online. Silverstein just announced the Four Seasons hotel downtown.

SM: Is downtown "where it's at"?

GUAY: A lot of companies are very active there, as Ground Zero continues to be redeveloped. There's been a shortage of good hotel rooms—four- and five-star hotels—in lower Manhattan.

SM: Is hotel development that is linked with condo development as much a danger for New York as it's been for other areas?

GUAY: The New York residential market has held up pretty well; deals like The Plaza attract financing. Besides, New York's a gateway city—probably THE gateway city in the U.S. It's got a tremendous demand for foreign travel, and those things are going to help New York stay a little stronger.

SM: Are we going to see any new convention properties soon?

GUAY: A couple of properties that I'm aware of have 10,000 to 15,000 sf of meeting space. Big development is very cost-prohibitive. The cost to build a 1,400-room Marriott Marquis in Times Square today would be astronomical. When you get above 500 to 600 rooms, it's a substantial undertaking. It probably has to be some kind of public or quasi-public project. If they redevelop the convention center ...

The hotel brands I typically represent want more meeting space, but most developers focus on the bare minimum of what they think they should do to attract meetings. Frankly, I think they're probably making more money off of their daily rates with the transient business traveler. The average room rate is $450-plus for a four-star hotel!

Originally published March 01, 2008

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