Where is the magic gone at The Plaza?

Designated National Historic Landmark of New York since 1969 (one of two hotels), The Plaza has always been an iconic destination of New York since its opening in 1907 – an inspiration for movie makers, artists and a gathering place of the business and political elite of its time.

The original 1956 Eloise movie – the child who lived “on the top floor of The Plaza”, The Bride War (2008), the 2013 re-make of The Great Gatsby ( (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby novel was published in 1921 with several scenes set at The Plaza) are just some of the many movies inspired and/or shot at The Plaza.

The latest major restoration and renovation of The Plaza, estimated at half a billion dollars was undertaken by then owners Elad Properties – the hotel being closed for two years between 2005 and 2007. Even though, despite its unique location and legendary history, The Plaza has changed ownership over 8 times in its history with Conrad Hilton and Donald Trump among the list of owners. In 2012, the hotel was purchased by Indian based Sahara Group, pursuing the third party management agreement with the Fairmont Hotels, signed in 2007. When it opened in 1907 The Plaza cost $12.5 million to build, while Sahara paid over $600 million for the property in 2012.

Under the management of the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, The Plaza has maintained an outstanding quality of service, even more remarkable considering the very intense competition among Manhattan luxury hotels, with 4 important new luxury hotel openings in two years alone. Unfortunately, with the successive ownerships seeking a higher return on each sale, the magic has also transformed into a real estate dream. Over half of the room inventory of the hotel was cut and  separated into a luxury residential section, the present room-count of the hotel including 285 keys of which 102 suites.

During the successive remodellings and refurbishments, the legendary Oak Bar overlooking Central Park was closed, while the Reception and lobby area were relocated. The Palm Court Room has remained untouched but, like throughout the entire hotel I would be at a loss to find the magic once The Plaza commanded.

Most likely a profit motivated decision, adding a Food Court to the basement of the hotel which used to house luxury stores, will most likely damage the positioning of the hotel, even if on a long term perspective. It is not that the mix of F&B outlets, most of them premium companies, has not been carefully done and neither the fact that the food is not of the best quality, the simply the food court atmosphere spoiled my last attempt to find the magic I have been so fervently seeking.

My suite, an Edwardian Suite was flawless – with a classic decor, exquisitely furnished and appointed in every single detail – the Baccarat chandelier, the huge mozaic bathroom (the size of a regular luxury room in Manhattan), while Fairmont discreetly blended the latest amenities of a luxury hotels of the 21st century – an iPad with centralized control of lighting, temperature and DND, high speed wi-fi internet and two large LCD Tv sets with a large selection of channels. Fairmont’s already famous ultra comfortable bed and French amenities by Caudalie complete the luxury features of the suite. Caudalie actually operate the Spa at The Plaza – the only Caudalie Spa in the U.S., providing unique vinotherapy treatments.

Unless The Plaza will re-gain its well deserved place in the hearts of locals and attract foreign travellers of a different calibre, The Plaza will undoubtedly remain a favourite movie and TV set, as well as a much coveted wedding destination, but not a legendary luxury hotel as it once was.

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Oliver Petcu in New York

Edwardian Suite, The Plaza New York