456 Greenwich hotel tops out with plans for several bars and restaurants

After a very long period as a hole in the ground, the Hotel Barrière on Desbrosses, which stretches the full length of the block between Greenwich and Washington, topped out last week, and the developer already came before CB1 seeking liquor license approval for its three (four? five?) bars and restaurants. It’s an exciting plan — exciting enough that neighbors in this sleepiest corner of the district are very concerned. (CB1’s Licensing Committee couldn’t absorb it all so they pushed it off till later this spring, and will schedule a meeting with the neighbors and the developer in the interim.)

The eight-story hotel will be completed in April 2022 and will open for guests in July 2022. Basic room rates will be $1200, with suites going for up to $50k…a night.

So here goes. And I’ll start at the beginning, in 1896. I added subheads so you can skip to the part you care about.

THE BACKSTORY
The developer is Caspi, which has dozens of properties around the city and beyond; locally the most interesting is the tres handsome 79 Walker, an 1860s cast iron building they are restoring as full-floor office suites with retail on the ground floor. It’s a family business, and Joshua Caspi did the presentation. He acquired the site in 2015, and after a half-decade of fits and starts and worse, was finally able to break ground. To find an operating partner, he said he interviewed 53 hotel brands from all over Europe and Asia, settling on Hotel Barrière because as third-generation business “they are very much aligned with my family philosophy.”

THE HOTEL OPERATORS
Hotels Barrière operates 18 luxury hotels and resorts in France, Morocco and Saint-Barth but the property most relevant to the discussion here is Le Fouquet’s Paris, known by its red awning on the Champs-Élysées. The restaurant there was opened by the family in 1896; they eventually bought the building and built the hotel above it. The family owns and operates all its properties and manages all the businesses inside the hotels as well, so the GM of the hotel oversees all the food and bev as well.

THE HOTEL SPECS
This will be a five-star operation with 97 guest rooms, 30 percent of which are suites and range in size from 900 to 1200 square feet. Capacity is 1000 people in the rooms. The two-floor cellar goes down 28 feet so it can hold a spa and theater, meeting rooms and event rooms. The water table is at 8 feet, so this was a feat. “I spent a extraordinary amount of money to build this hole,” Caspi said. The guest rooms are on floors 2 through 6, 7 is private rooms and 8 is the rooftop terrace. Stephen B. Jacobs Group Architects did the design, which was easily approved by Landmarks.

THE RESTAURANTS AND BARS
There are at least four, if not five, spaces to drink and eat, and they are requesting liquor licenses for all from 8a to 2a:

1. Le Fouquet’s (23 tables, 80 seats) and its sidewalk café (15 tables, 60 seats)
This will be the largest venue and the fine dining venue on the Washington Street corner that will be run, as is the one in Paris, by the same chef — Pierre Gagnaire, 70, who has a constellation of Michelin stars.

2. Market Bar and ground floor lounges (14 tables, 40 seats + 8 person bar)
This tiny boutique bar for “power cocktails” on the Greenwich Street side will be reservation only. There will also be lounge areas on that side.

3. Parisi
Everyday dining in the back of the building.

4. The roof deck
In the winter they are planning small structures for private dining on the 8th floor — makeshift chalets or yurts. In the summer folks will be just standing and drinking, and to control sound the operators built huge concrete walls and they are using a technology called sonic beam directional speakers that target the sound. “It’s not meant to be a party scene — but a pre-dinner opportunity for drinks.”

5. The courtyard
This, along with the roof deck, has a lot of neighbors concerned for the sound issues. The hotel plans to cover it most days and late night with a retractable roof, and they provided sound studies at a restaurant on Fifth Avenue that uses the same kind of awning.

THE DEBATE
Residents living nearby — especially at 462 Greenwich and 135 Watts — have already raised concerns and spoken with the developer, who, I must add, has already been their neighbor for six long years. Many noted that North Tribeca is known for its quiet, and they like it that way. “We don’t have destinations like this,” said Joshua Bernstein.

One neighbor (it was hard to catch names on Zoom) argued that the community board should follow its own guidelines regarding both open windows, which require early closing hours on side streets, and roof decks and sidewalk cafes, where applicants must operate for a year before they are granted this privilege. “That the hotel would choose to disregard the guidelines of the community board suggest they are not truly interested in fitting into the neighborhood in a non-disruptive way as they claim,” she noted.

But Caspi said he aligns with neighbors when it comes to noise, given what guests are paying for their rooms. “We don’t want to kill the golden goose, so to speak.” And one representative of his, a 10-year veteran of the Greenwich Hotel, Seth Alexander, noted that this kind of opportunity does not come along very often for the industry — in terms of providing jobs and creating options for outdoor dining, which is the new normal.

“Outdoor is now in our DNA,” he said. “There were positive and negatives to covid, but we will all be outside diners. By not granting that opportunity for a restaurant or a hotel, we are taking away the opportunity for them to succeed.”

 

9 Comments

  1. Will be a great addition to the neighborhood. Beautiful design and a nice programming mix. Rooftop cocktails sound lovely with that sunset view down Desbrosses. Rowdiness is always a concern with a new business like this, but the pros certainly outweigh any potential cons and the price point should give people confidence that it’ll be well-managed, not reckless.

  2. I can understand the concern to the immediate neighbors. It brings a completely different dimension to the neighborhood. Those price points can signify customer entitlement based behavior but that’s a generalization; please no attacks. Will be interesting to see what evolves. Good for bringing business but challenges too. I foresee it becoming a major tourist attraction.

  3. I agree, it will be a great addition. BUT – outdoor dining on our streets is a privilege, not a right, so let them operate for a year and return for outdoor street dining (assuming indoor dining is fully open of course). It is not really the facility itself that will be a problem, it will be the street noise as folks enter and leave, especially late night. Cars, folks talking (and yelling), and general commotions. The hotel can’t control this, and from first hand experience this is where the problems lie.

    • Outdoor dining is no longer a privilege, but in fact a much needed right. The Mayor and the City have made permanent the open restaurant program. The fact the community board could wield that much power over a business was absurd and thankfully has been curtailed.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/25/nyregion/nyc-outdoor-dining-restaurants.html

      I for one want to do everything to help the restaurants (existing and future) survive and thrive as they are one of the main things that make NYC a great place. I love the European feel the outdoor seating brings to our City. Further the economic boost / jobs the dining industry brings can’t be discounted.

      On the other things, of course a hotel can’t control what happens in the streets of the City. If the zoning allows hotels, and a hotel is built, you’re undoubtedly going to get more traffic coming to the neighborhood.

      That’s the tradeoff for living in a City. People will always be here, and NW Tribeca is not some sanctuary for resident’s only.

  4. It’s remarkably optimistic to open a new hotel in these times, when so many hotels are closing. Weren’t some estimates that 50% of hotels will close for good in NYC due to pandemic?

    I still hope the Roxy survives.

  5. $1200 PER NIGHT for a “basic” room??????? YIKES!

  6. Sorry, but does anyone else think the $1200 per night is total b.s.? It’s about 2X the cost of the average room rate of the Beekman or Four Seaons, so there’s that. Methinks those $1200 rooms will be going for $399 on TripAdvisor sooner than later.

  7. Looking forward to this development and restaurants. I hope they’ll have enough rosé!

    And rooms starting at $1200? …yeah my folks will just have to slum it at the four seasons next time they visit.

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