Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NYC’s First Gay Hotel Was Long Time in Planning

By: Paris Wolfe via lhonline

Manhattan’s newest gay neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen, is getting The Out NYC. It’s New York City’s first gay hotel and, perhaps, the only gay urban resort in the country, according to developer Ian Reisner, managing partner of Parkview Developers. Reisner and his business partners own other properties in New York State.

The idea came from a gay-focused boutique hotel in Barcelona where Reisner stayed a few years ago. He decided New York City needed a similar hotel and, in fact, an entire entertainment complex.

It makes sense considering that, despite higher-profile gay-centric locations, New York is the top travel destination for both gay and lesbian travelers, reports Community Marketing, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in LGTB travel research.

"This is an idea whose time has come,” says Reisner. “What makes The Out NYC a gay hotel is the comfort level and tailored amenities for the community. The Out NYC will become a 'can't-miss' for gay tourists as well as the epicenter of gay life for LGBT New Yorkers."

The hotel complex — an adapted 1950s-vintage, drive-in motor inn — is situated on 42nd St. between 10th and 11th Avenues. A major rehabilitation and redirected use of the existing motel will turn the property into a 105-room boutique hotel with a spa, wellness center, business center and conference rooms. The entertainment complex includes the 11,000-square-foot XL nightclub, lounge and cabaret as well as a 24/7 café and a restaurant called Kitchen.

“It feels like a hotel in Miami,” describes Reisner. “All rooms are on the second floor and higher, facing an internal courtyard.”

Will the specialty market embrace the project?

“A good number of gay people like to stay in an all-gay or gay-friendly atmosphere,” says David Paisley, senior research director for Community Marketing Inc. “There’s no reason why the LGTB community wouldn’t be able to support a hotel of that size in the city of New York.”

He cautions, however, that it has to be well done at a reasonable cost. “The LGTB community is probably willing to pay a little more for that environment, but not a lot more for a hotel that may be a block away from other options.”

When it comes to great amenities, it’s not about toiletries. The best amenity to draw more gay guests is a gay entertainment infrastructure within the hotel, says Paisley. “Having a gay bar, gay restaurant in the hotel is a really nice amenity.”

The largest investors in the property are Reisner, his partner and a group of limited partners. “We’re 100 percent behind this project. We think this is an amazing concept and the timing is good,” he says. He’s referring to New York State’s July 24 enactment of the Marriage Equality Act, which allows same sex marriage.

The hotel was underway, however, long before the gay marital rights became reality. “The concept of a gay-centered hotel has been in my mind for over five years,”
says Reisner. And, the actual planning started in 2008.

In 2009 he secured a rare 49-year ground lease for the property, a 26,000-square-foot block of real estate, in a gentrifying neighborhood. “It was perfect timing to get my hands on such a big property,” he says. “The great recession had put a damper on real estate and you could lock in things you couldn’t lock in, in a normal functioning market.”

The nightlife venue, expected to draw locals as well as travelers, is scheduled to open in November. The hotel’s official opening is planned for late winter/early spring 2012.

And, it could be just the first. “Based on the positive reception we’ve had I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more of these in the future,” says Reisner.

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