Construction Update: West 37th Street Hotels

307 West 37th Street307 West 37th Street

The shroud has come off Peter Poon’s new Marriott Courtyard Inn at 307 West 37th Street, and the final product is dismal – the building does meet the street wall appropriately, but the design of the tower is beyond hideous. Standing 27 floors, 307 West 37th makes no impact on the skyline, and thankfully so. The hotel has a total of 206 rooms.

Across the street from Poon’s latest masterpiece is Kaufman’s not-so-horrible creation at 312 West 37th Street, which will house a 292-room Homewood Suites, by Hilton. At 21 stories, the building is also short enough to avoid prominence. Construction began late last year and topping-out occurred over the winter – since then the facade has risen, and it’s mildly contextual, though the materials are obviously cheap. Still, it’s an improvement over most of Kaufman’s contributions to Midtown, which range from mediocre to obscene.

Both hotels are the result of antiquated zoning codes – though the Garment District is full of run-down pre-war buildings, they are still beautiful old structures, and many are worthy of preservation. FAR bonuses could easily be rewarded to developers who strive to maintain typical Gotham aesthetics, whether this is implemented through preserving historic facades or mandating contextuality among anything new. Either option would be better than the current situation.

Beyond development bonuses for contextual architecture, the city will need to work on re-zoning a neighborhood with specific intent for hotel re-development. Current efforts in the Hudson Yards and Midtown East are geared towards office space, and while new hotels will likely rise in these districts, they are not the focus – what ultimately needs to happen is an up-zoning of Times Square, and potentially adjacent neighborhoods, to accomodate large scale hotel development.

Hotels resembling piecemeal architectural buckshot continue to erupt throughout Manhattan – these are indicative of greater systemic issues within city zoning. Ugly hotels will continue to rise in abundance until the demand for new space can be properly accommodated – and without forward-thinking leaders, much of Chelsea and the Garment District will be devastated if no changes occur.

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