When the Loews Regency reopens in early 2014 following a $70 million renovation, it will look and feel like a completely different hotel. The flagship, historic property, located on Park Avenue in Manhattan, closed its doors in January, and crews of architects, designers, and contractors are working under a tight timeline to finish the extensive overhaul by the end of the year.
The project calls for a complete reconfiguration of the guestrooms, reducing the number of suites and increasing the key count by 25. Guestrooms will have all new furniture, fixtures, and fabrics, and the bathrooms will be transformed into larger, luxe retreats. The hotel is also bidding farewell to the big banquet and catering business by getting rid of its ballroom and creating smaller, more functional boardrooms and meeting spaces. Other highlights of the renovation include the addition of an 8,000-square-foot Julien Farel salon and spa, a new Italian coffee bar, and an expanded fitness center.
This is the first time in the hotel’s 50-year history that it has completed a full-property renovation. For Dick Senechal, executive vice president of facilities, that’s an exciting project and a challenging feat. “It’s directly across the street from our corporate offices,” he says, “so every single person here looks at it every day and wants to know what’s going on.”
But the Regency isn’t the only Loews hotel that is undergoing a major transformation. In fact, over the past two years, Loews has initiated large-scale renovations at 10 of its corporate-owned U.S. properties, including the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in Orlando Fla., Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., and Loews Vandervilt in Nashville, Tenn. The multi-property initiative—totaling hundreds of millions of dollars—represents eight times more than Loews would traditionally spend on upgrades in the course of a year. But the investment is all part of the brand’s aggressive growth plans, and Senechal believes the pay-off will be worth it.
“There’s obviously an investment reason for doing this,” he says. “There is an ADR analysis behind every one of these projects. Some of the renovations would have been there anyway as part of routine upgrades, but many are return based.”
The bulk of the renovation work in each hotel focuses on reconceiving the lobby and restaurant space to meet the changing expectations of travelers. The lobbies are being designed to appeal to a younger generation, says Senechal. New Loews lobbies will feature furniture vignettes for small gatherings and meetings as well as task-based areas, including long, library-like tables, for work. And of course, the lobbies will be wired for connectivity, with plenty of plugs and outlets, as well as high-speed Wi-Fi to support multiple devices.
“Everyone comes equipped with five devices and is wired and connected at all times,” says Senechal. “We are completely device agnostic and want people to be able to use any device at any time. We’re trying to make sure that there is maximum connectivity and power anywhere you sit down.”
Other highlights of the new Loews lobby spaces include replacing traditional front desks with more accessible check-in pods that allow for associates to get out from behind the desk and interact with guests; and a multi-screen video wall, where hotels can show family movies or display news and weather.
For restaurants, the brand is looking to create distinct, local eateries. At the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, the reinvention of the lobby and public space—to be completed next year—started with a new concept for the restaurant. “In Philadelphia, the restaurant will have a theme that is unique from the hotel,” says Senechal. “Part of what we’re doing in food and beverage is focusing on making our restaurants free-standing outlets instead of just an extension of the public space.”
Although some of the renovations will share similar elements, Senechal stresses that every one will be unique and provide an authentic, local experience for guests. “We would not think of having the same design in New York as we do in Chicago,” he says. “It’s easy for a big company to fall into the cookie-cutter mentality. As a smaller hotel company, we have the advantage of focusing our attention on conceptualizing hotels and designing the hotel to make it special.”