Ian Schrager Finds ‘an Antidote to Living in a Busy City’

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The New York Sun

Whether it’s a discotheque, hotel, or restaurant, Ian Schrager seems to have a knack for hitting the sweet spot of public tastes, just when people are looking for a new flavor and just before someone else has set up shop.

His latest project, 50 Gramercy Park North and the Gramercy Park Hotel, is a 2-in-1 combination hotel and luxury condominium. The two buildings are distinctly separate, yet are linked by services, amenities, and Mr. Schrager’s signature style. Owners are scheduled to move into their apartments in June, and the hotel is set to open this July.

While people have lived in hotels for centuries and high-end designer apartments in New York have increasingly offered concierge-style services, Mr. Schrager said this is the first time a condo and hotel have been built side by side with interlocking components. The two are part of a single concept, built from the ground up. Or in this case, renovated from the original 1925 hotel by John Pawson, Michael Overington, and Anda Andrei.

“I took the best from each to create a new genre,” Mr. Schrager said. “Make living easier, less complicated. It’s an antidote to living in a busy city.”

The allure of hotel living is obvious: instant access to services like housekeeping, concierge, and in-room dinning. But the price of convenience is the loss of the creature comforts and individual personality of a home. “I’ve lived in hotels, every time I open them,” Mr. Schrager said. “The kinds of services you want in a hotel are not the same things you want in your home.”

The real estate boom in New York has generated a wealth of luxury properties by designer architects that are competing to outdo the others with amenities. Mr. Schrager predicts that amenities at the condo developments are a passing fad subject to economic changes while at his properties, they are there to stay.

“Amenity-rich developments are Johnny-come-latelys. It’s a market-driven phenomenon,” Mr. Schrager said. “When the market drops, they’ll lose the amenities.” But not at Mr. Schrager’s properties, he said, where the service is intrinsic to the concept. “The service is the edge. I’m not a real estate guy; I come from the hotel industry.”

He says all of his ideas are self-generated based on instinct, not market research or logistics. He said he sees things differently from others, and it’s often the obvious idea that is over looked. “I’m interested in social phenomenon. How we react, how we respond.” And, of course, being the first to make a statement and create something unique. “It’s the reason I don’t do nightclubs, I don’t have anything new to say.”

He expects competition and imitation of his newly remade properties. “The hotel industry, it took them 20 years before they caught on, but in real estate it takes five seconds.”

The 18-story residential side at 50 Gramercy Park North will have a separate entrance and rooftop space because, as Mr. Schrager put it, “hotel guests are transient – they’re not neighbors, and you don’t want to share your space with strangers.” A service department exclusive to the residents of the 23 apartments is at the ready to organize and execute any task, from arranging play dates for children to filling the pantry to tech support for computers and entertainment centers. “It’s more than just a service department. It’s lifestyle management.”

Residents will have special phones connecting them to complete and, in some instances, preferred access to all the amenities of the Gramercy Park Hotel at 2 Lexington Ave. The 186-room property (rates start at $500 a night) is scheduled to open in July and will have a spa, restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Alan Yau of London’s Hakkasan (opening in September), bar, and a 24-hour concierge staff of five.

The concierge services will be linked with all the Morgan Hotel Group and Ian Schrager properties worldwide via a toll-free number.

His second conceptual living venture, 40 Bond, in NoHo is under construction, with occupancy scheduled for spring 2007. The 11-story building, with 23 unique apartments, is the first residential project in America by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The building will be served by the same concierge services as Mr. Schrager’s Gramercy property.

Apartments at 50 Gramercy cost between $6.25 million and $16 million, with maintenance fees running as high as $17,000 a month. Prices at 40 Bond range from $3.35 million to $18 million. Some services will carry additional fees, though exact pricing has not yet been determined. In March, there were reportedly four units left for sale at 50 Gramercy. Mr. Schrager would not confirm specific numbers, but said that both units had properties available for purchase – except for the penthouse at 40 Bond. That’s Mr. Schrager’s.

The New York Sun

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