The first Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan isn't banking on its prime location at 8th Avenue and West 49th Street alone. The Hilton Garden Inn Times Square is offering deluxe beds, free high technology and a restaurant inside the building to leverage rates higher than they were when it was a Days Inn mere months ago.

At 369 units, the Times Square property is the biggest in the HGI portfolio. It also serves as a kind of laboratory:

  • It is the beta site for the Garden Sleep System, bedding Hilton vows is better than any Starwood offers

  • It features two sophisticated exercise rooms with equipment from True Fitness

  • It is a model for what Hilton Garden Inn executives term the second cycle of the brand, which truly came into its own in 1996.

Individually adjustable Garden Sleep beds use New Zealand wool and a system of air baffles and wooden slats to automatically adjust to the sleeper's body by displacing air based upon weight. A king-sized Garden Sleep System bed costs the hotelier $980, about twice the cost of a conventional bed system. But there's no mattress flipping, and the systems come with a 10-year warranty and will last twice as long as conventional ones, says Adrian Kurre, senior vice president, brand management.

On the technology front, the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square offers free high-speed Internet access; by June, both wired and wireless will be available. Guestrooms feature 26-inch flat-screen TVs, and when hoteliers upgrade to HDTV, the migration will be relatively inexpensive, Kurre says.

As of October, the Times Square hotel was still being renovated. Sean Collard, the general manager, says the target market is the business traveler during the week, the leisure traveler on weekends. Besides the renovation, his challenges include a heavily unionized staff he inherited from the Days Inn days.

“I'm very, very, very, very lucky,“ says the former assistant manager of a nearby Doubletree. “My commute changed one block. And I have a motorcycle, which makes me lucky and crazy.“

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