Lodging’s 2010 Innovators: Paul McGowan, Managing Member, Hospitality 3

When Paul McGowan was looking for a real estate opportunity in New Haven, Conn., the former executive at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, wasn’t necessarily searching for a hotel. But as fate would have it, he came upon an opportunity to acquire what he describes as a “very old and tired, 86-room hotel on Chapel Street.” The property was in the shadows of Yale University and never one to shun an opportunity for creative thinking, McGowan, who played an integral role in the launch of W Hotels when at Starwood, decided to acquire the hotel and began thinking through his strategy.

“We wanted to create a sense of place and not just a hotel on Chapel Street branded by any hotel chain out there,” he says. “We really started to think about the university customer and what their expectations are.”

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What he and Hospitality 3 came up with was The Study at Yale, is a sophisticated but relaxed environment that plays off its campus location. It’s a concept that he hopes to expand to other campuses and cultural centers as Study Hotels looks to grow.

In New Haven, McGowan says the company ended up gutting the existing building—which had a modular design—and adding floors. “The precedent was there for maintaining modern lines t the building,” he says. “We are in a pretty sophisticated design environment. We gave a lot thought on how to balance that with the more simplistic needs of the customers who come to a market like this. We find them to be very sophisticated and well traveled, but not necessarily looking for high-end design.”

The Study at Yale maintains a degree of international influence to its design. It also remains reflective of more contemporary lifestyles, McGowan says.

McGowan plans to take the concept to other campus and in the design of The Study at Yale, the company kept those options available. “There are several concepts within the brand,” he says. “We have very unique rooms called studies, which are adjacent to guestrooms. That creates a very comfortable den-like atmosphere. Also, one of the signature components of the brand is a leather chair and ottoman in every guestroom, and reading lamps that invite guests to read. It’s a comfortable environment.”

He also says it helps to maintain that sense of place that he was striving to achieve. “It really helps to give a sense of where you are,” he says.

As the brand expands to other locales, McGowan says the design will change. It’s one of the reason he chose the name “The Study” rather than a typical hotel name. “This is an extension of the cultural market that’s it’s in,” he says. “Our though is that we can take this to any university and take a deep dive into what they are all about and what their personality is, and make sure that is reflected in the experience, the style, and the design of the hotel.”

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