Manhattan's former meatpacking district is becoming more about fine art and luxury goods than wild nightlife. So the local Gansevoort Hotel is adjusting with a $30 million revamp. Will it work?
When the Gansevoort hotel first opened back in 2004, the boutique property had no competition in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.
“We were the only game in town, and it was just the right moment in time,” said Michael Achenbaum, the president and founder of the Gansevoort Hotel Group.
That gave the boutique hotel a distinct advantage, as the neighborhood became arguably the nightlife capital in the aughts. The hotel — as well as other players, such as the restaurant Pastis and the lounge Lotus — helped speed up the growth of the Meatpacking District. But there was a tipping point.
“I think there was a moment where it became too much, and the term ‘jump the shark’ was appropriate at the time,” Achenbaum said.
Almost 20 years later, the neighborhood has morphed. More luxury shops like Gucci and Hermès have entered the space, Lotus is long gone, and packing plants are nowhere to be found — though Achenbaum believes there are still one or two left on the fringes of the district.
“A lot of guests are now coming back with their children or coming back to walk on the Highline or go to the Whitney, versus 20 years ago they might have wanted to drunkenly fall around the neighborhood and go bar to bar,” said Achenbaum.
Just as the Meatpacking District has gotten a face-lift, so, too, has Gansevoort. The hotel is putting the finishing touches on a $30 million renovation to keep up with the changing tide and become an “adult version” of itself.
To transform itself into a luxury brand, Achenbaum did all the major things you’d expect, like a renovation of its rooms, lobby, check-in and corridors (and the small things, like a new logo, brand color — from purple to a deep blue — and higher-end fixtures). It also will debut four new lounge spaces in the basement, three new food and beverage concepts this fall, and a new rooftop opening this April.
“The neighborhood has transformed itself and grown up, and we’ve grown up along with it,” Achenbaum said.
It’s a fine line that Achenbaum must walk. He has to work with its brand recognition from those nightlife glory days, for better or worse, while also creating a new space that will appeal to the neighborhood’s deep-pocketed and arguably more subdued crowd.
It isn’t a sure thing that the balancing act will work. Other Gansevoort Hotel Group properties have long been sold off, like in South Beach and on Park Avenue. But Achenbaum is optimistic that his flagship has staying power.
New Neighborhood, New Updates
Achenbaum and his team doubled down on the hotel’s art collection. The goal is for guests to notice the millions of dollars of artwork hung on its walls. It has added original art from the likes of Banksy and Hassan Hajjaj in the lobby. The move aims to shift the hotel from being a nightlife epicenter to a cultural hub.
Some of the quirks that made Gansevoort a hotel fitting for the city’s nightlife capital have been erased, too. Take, for example, the hotel’s elevator system, which now shuts off floors so that hotel guests are not disturbed by people coming to its rooftop bar.
“You know, back in the day, you’d have stories of drunken ramblings of non-guests on floors, but now that’s no longer physically an issue,” said Achenbaum.
Its basement space is getting a complete overhaul, debuting this fall. They’re doubling the size of its gym and added wellness perks like infrared heat. They’re also creating four new lounge spaces, including a bowling bar and karaoke lounge, with a purposefully separate entrance from the hotel.
Formerly, the basement space was G Spa, which was a spa by day, and by night it converted into a club. The treatment rooms became cabanas, and two of the hot tubs were covered with glass (the other one they’d leave open for partiers to jump in and out of).
“That was a lot of work on a personal basis for our team to maintain and make it feel good by 9 a.m. the next morning every day,” Achenbaum said. And, from a rebrand standpoint, the concept didn’t fit.
Although the lounge spaces will feel more intimate, upscale, and mature, they still want to retain some of the playfulness they built their reputation on.
Back in 2017, Achenbaum launched The Curtain in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, which focused on a members-only concept and hosted events like a bi-weekly cabaret.
He sold the hotel to the Reuben Brothers in 2018 and continued management, but ceased operating the 120-room property in 2020 when the challenges of the pandemic proved too much. The hotel is now a Mondrian.
Still, he’s hoping to take what he learned about the members-only concept, and bring it back to the Meatpacking property, partnering with the Whitney and other galleries in the area, as well as hosting niche events like whisky tastings.
“We want to have speakers coming in on a daily basis, film showings, tastings, and have our chef teach hotel guests and members how to prepare dumplings and pasta,” said Achenbaum.
He’s also planning a return to the London market — or at least to the countryside nearby.
“We loved that experience and living in London, and there’s a lot of opportunity to do that again, so that’s where our next goals are,” said Achenbaum.
With the Gansevoort renovation, he’s capitalizing, too, on the resurgence of energy he’s been seeing in Manhattan.
“I think with Covid, you sort of brought everyone back into their neighborhoods in the city,” Achenbaum said. “People really want to stay within Manhattan much more than they did eight or nine years ago — and not have to travel as far to have their experience,” said Achenbaum.
Achenbaum’s hoping that he can again be at the right place to take advantage of the “stay local” movement.
“We’re taking what was fun and a little bit crazy, and making it fun and artistic and high-end and luxury,” said Achenbaum. “People walk into the hotel, and they’re like, ‘Am I in the right place?’ because what their mind is telling them is that this is not the Gansevoort of old.”
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Photo credit: The exterior shot of the new Gansevoort, which has undergone a $30 million renovation. Photo by David Mitchell. Source: Skift.