Tom Glassie, the managing director of Atlantic Stars Hotels & Cruises, knew he had an attractive, well-positioned property at the Park South Hotel at 122-124 East 28th Street off Park Avenue, but sensed that the hotel was not sufficiently maximizing its potential. Since the hotel’s opening in August 2001, the area surrounding it had evolved dramatically, while the property remained static.
“When we opened, not much had been going on in the neighborhood,” said Mr. Glassie, whose family-run company owns eight properties throughout the country. “It was kind of a tough town, but there were a lot of office buildings.”
Slowly, change arrived. Madison Square Park was spruced up. Baruch College expanded its campus. Mario Batali’s Eataly landed. Luxury condos sprouted like weeds and the office stock was revamped. And chic hotels followed.
“Once The NoMad came in, we were so impressed with that we just said, ‘We’re going to join this in a major way,’ ” said Mr. Glassie. In 2009, having emerged from the darkest depths of the recession, the company spearheaded plans to reposition the site from a three-star hotel to a four-star hotel.
Cass Calder Smith, the founding principal of CCS Architecture, was called in for the gut renovation, and is working primarily on boosting the aesthetics of the public areas.
“We’re taking everything down to the studs,” said Mr. Smith.
From the street, the facade is going to be spruced up. New exterior front doors will be installed and an entrance, canopy framing, and new sidewalks have already be added.
The entire lobby and front desk area is also undergoing construction. Mr. Smith said the lobby is “pretty small” but will be “kind of a gem” when completed with a new check-in, living room and library.
“The style is derived from New York City’s … style, which ties into the legacy of the hotel,” said Mr. Smith. “People’s expectations of being in New York [will be] fulfilled.”
Upgraded elevator interior cabs are in production and three redone elevators have already been installed.
In order to achieve the distinguished four-star status, all of the rooms in the hotel had to be repositioned, and some of the rooms were removed altogether.
“The first floor used to have about 10 guest rooms in the middle of the building, but that’s more of a three-star experience,” said Mr. Glassie. “We wanted to have more public space and activate the social experience.”
The design of the rooms was also impacted by the repositioning.
Lisa Knight, the president of ABI Design who worked with Atlantic Stars Hotels, said that some of the original room attributes, including crown moldings, were kept, but the lighting, closet space and room size presented challenges.
To address the dearth of lighting, Ms. Knight added Swarovski pendants in the middle of the rooms. She also used a mirror wall panel behind the bedside light, as well as in some vertical elements of the casegoods to add reflection. The closets were all redesigned to fit within the room shapes; boxy armoires were eschewed.
The color palette includes a rich champagne, warm grays and cream in order to give the room an inviting atmosphere while still retaining its New York City sophistication. Though minimal in pattern, the textures are satin and velvet, a nod to the property’s history.
Three new restaurants will be added to the property, Mr. Glassie said. This includes an upscale restaurant developed by Cushman Concepts in the brownstone part of the hotel on East 28th Street, with an open kitchen and wood-burning stove. Closer to 27th Street, there will be a bar featuring a mixologist. And on 27th Street, there will be a cafe that will service both hotel guests and neighborhood patrons.
All told, the whole project, including the hotel rooms, building out the three restaurants and the accessible roof, has amounted to a $20 million investment over a three-and-a-half-year period.
“This is a big spend,” said Mr. Glassie, “[But] we think the timing with the neighborhood is going to be perfect. We think it’s going to boost the neighborhood in a big way.”