The Plaza Goes High Tech

New York City's Plaza Hotel, a legendary property in a city full of legendary hotels, will soon re-emerge as a super-luxury condominium and hotel complex unlike any ever seen in the city. Owner Elad Properties is spending $350 million on a top-to-bottom project that will convert the one-time hotel to a mixed-used building with 130 hotel rooms, 152 condo hotel units and 182 private residences. The building, closed since early 2005, will reopen later this year to coincide with the hotel's 100th anniversary. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will operate the property.

Every aspect of the project, including both the residential and hotel portions, will be state-of-the-art in design, furnishings, amenities and technology.

“It will be ‘the’ hotel in New York City,” says Vineet Gupta, senior vice president of technology for Fairmont. “It's our belief and the owners' belief that we should have the best technology possible.”

That cutting-edge technology spans owner/guest accommodations and back-of-the-house systems. All are the best available on the market, believes Gupta.

“The decision making was seamless,” he says, “in that senior-level people from both the owners and Fairmont were involved in the process from the beginning.”

Gupta says the biggest challenge was to find the right technologies to achieve the results they sought. “A lot of the time, vendors talk about system capabilities, but it's difficult to determine what will really work,” he says. “We spent a lot of time with each of the vendors to understand their systems and to gain confidence in the companies with which we are dealing.”

Here's a sample of the technology innovations Plaza guests and employees will discover later this year:

  • Guests will use a wireless tablet device to control all areas of their rooms and suites, including heat, light and entertainment. Guests can also use the tablet to contact staff members for any additional services they need.

  • Each room or suite will have an IP-based high-definition video-on-demand system that features true digital quality and video recording capabilities. Guests can watch the entertainment on large-screen flat-panel TVs.

  • Guestroom locks will be secured with the latest in security technology: RFID proximity locking systems. Gupta says the advantage to this technology is the ability of the locking units to store more information than other systems.

  • A hybrid voice-over IP telephone switch will initially serve the property's office areas. “The cost is high now, so we're not using the technology for guest telephones,” he says, “but the possibility is there for the future.”

  • Tying the technology together are a converged wireless network covering both guest and internal requirements and a cabled network infrastructure that spans the entire building and brings all systems together. While these elements were complex to plan and execute, Gupta says they will be cost-efficient over the long haul and allow the owners and Fairmont to more easily upgrade systems and add technologies as needed.

“Everything about this project centers on guest needs,” says Gupta. “The technology must be there to support that function.”

For example, wireless is fast becoming the norm in both residential and lodging settings. It's what everyone has in their homes, and they want secure and reliable wireless Internet access in their hotel rooms.”

Beyond technology, The Plaza will take luxury to new heights. The private residences, priced from $2.5 million to $40 million, will be most lavish. They're available with one to five bedrooms, all with nine- to 14-foot ceilings. Where possible, many of the original architectural details will be restored, but paired with modern technology and ff&e elements. The residence will have a separate lobby, elevators and Central Park South entrance.

Slightly less expensive, but just as luxurious, are The Plaza's Pied-A-Terre suites, which are more typical condo hotel units, albeit ones that are selling for between $1.6 million and $5.8 million. These suites are available in five styles ranging from 500 to 1,300 square feet. All have marble baths, flat screen TVs, owner's closets and butler kitchens.

Another element of the project is The Plaza Retail Collection, a selection of high-end shops and restaurants spread over 160,000 square feet and six levels of the property. The Plaza's restored Fifth Avenue entrance will lead to the retail collection, a new double-height hotel lobby and the famous Palm Court, which will be recreated as an afternoon tea venue. Also returning are the Oak Bar and Oak Room, while the former Terrace and Edwardian Rooms will be used as retail space.

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION/DATA MANAGEMENT
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PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
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