Ian Schrager… On the Next Chapter in Hotels

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IMG_8282 Legendary hotelier Ian Schrager, who once rocked New York City with Studio 54, is here telling us how the purpose of a hotel is to provide way more than a bed for consumers. It should be an elevated experience.

What’s elevating me is listening to him talk — heavy Brooklyn/New York accent and deep voice. It’s like listening to Jimmy Durante.

Or as he said, “too many nights in a nightclub.”IMG_8285

I think he said he got into the hotel business by accident. He and partner Steve Rubell started the famous Studio 54, then had a little brush with the IRS, then started the Palladium nightclub. In 1984 they introduced the boutique hotel concept to the world with The Morgans hotel, and nights at the inn have never been the same since.

Schrager is also credited with inventing the “Urban Resort” concept with the famous Delano Hotel in Miami and the Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood. He created his “hotel as lifestyle” with the Hudson Hotel in New York, the Clift Hotel in San Francisco,  St. Martins Lane Hotel and the Sanderson Hotel. He lost Steve Rubell to AIDS in 1989.

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Of note: I checked out a three month old hotel here (above) on South Beach the other night, the “1 Hotel” — an organic concept by W and St. Regis brand guru Barry Sternlicht. Stunning and very sexy: all beds are on these organic wooden platforms that beckon… definitely NOT for the aging in place gen, definitely FOR anyone in that gen who still has it going strong (ahem):

News originally broke back in early 2013 that the old rambling barn of a hotel originally known as the Roney Palace when it was built in the 1960s (on the site of the former Roney Plaza, but that’s a story for another day), and then the Gansevoort, was going under the knife for its biggest transformation yet to become the 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach. Since then, Miami has watched Starwood Hotels slice and dice the property up, massively rework it, and turn a giant building practically designed to guzzle energy into a much more sustainable machine.

Schrager didn’t talk organic, but he did talk tech — said any business today that shuns technology is dead — especially in hotels: “we are trying to figure out how technology will improve the quality of a person’a stay.” But technology must enhance, not frustrate the consumer, a huge, delicate balance. (And one I imagine that wreaks havoc with older hotel consumers who hate pushing buttons.) There is a traveler out there, he says, regardless of age who wants excitement, wants to have fun, and they don’t want to go to a place that feels like their “grandmother’s hotel.”

(My grandmother probably stayed at two hotels her entire life: HoJo’s and The Holiday Inn.)

Exciting concepts in food and beverage are paramount, but you also need really great service.

“I want to add technology to enhance the stay and services, those two are not mutually exclusive,” said Schrager.

“Trying to provide enhancing concepts but a value proposition,” he said.

How hard is it now to find sites for hotels when a NYC site just sold for $250 million? Schrager says he is looking at the North Beach section of Miami Beach. And St. Petersburg. Also looking to bring four additions to China, Bangkok and India.

“I think the South Florida market is very ripe,” he said. “Miami is no longer a getaway for the northeast, it’s a world class city.”

It’s all about creating a unique, distinctive product.

Still, he says “I like to stay closer to home because I like to control every single detail. But if something is interesting and sexy, I’d go there.”


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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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