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Mon, Mar 03, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Elad Group reopens New York's Plaza

LANDMARK The hotel's owners planned to turn all the rooms into apartments but the plan was opposed by preservationists and a compromise was reached


A recreation of The Plaza's original stained glass dome is seen after the New York hotel's reopening on Saturday.


New York's Plaza hotel, a century-old mecca for socialites and plutocrats, reopened after a three-year, US$400 million restoration.

Hundreds of New Yorkers and tourists alike flocked to the hotel for the landmark's soft opening.

The Plaza, a National Historic Landmark overlooking Central Park, first opened in 1907. Marilyn Monroe was photographed here and guests included the Beatles and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Its ballroom was the setting of author Truman Capote's famed "Black and White Ball."

Former owners include Conrad Hilton and Donald Trump.

The Plaza's owners, Elad Properties, a subsidiary of the Israeli-based Elad Group, initially planned to convert all guest rooms into condominiums, but the plan was opposed by preservationists and the hotel workers' union. Negotiations led to a deal that resulted in 282 hotel rooms, down from the original 805, and 181 apartments.

Suite prices average US$1,000 per night and condominium apartments start at US$2.5 million apiece. The hotel is operated by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

"When you hear US$1,000 a night for a room it might seem like a lot, but in the end it's not about the price, it's about the experience," said Bill Carroll, a professor at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration who honeymooned at The Plaza 41 years ago.

The renovation sought to restore legendary New York locales such as the Oak Bar, the Palm Court and Plaza Grand Ballroom to their original state, said Miki Naftali, chief executive officer of Elad Properties, a unit of Elad Group, which bought the building on Fifth Avenue for US$675 million in 2004.

"Everyone was very determined to do one thing and one thing only -- to recreate The Plaza and bring it into the next century," Naftali told reporters on Saturday.

The renovation of architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh's building was long overdue, Naftali said.

A leaking roof had put 65 rooms out of commission and cost US$30 million to repair. Architects tracked down the original manufacturers of the distinctive green tiles that cover the roof.

The lighted, colored-glass ceiling over the Palm Court, removed in the 1940s by Conrad Hilton, was recreated with the help of old photographs and shards of glass found at the hotel.

Renovated suites feature bathrooms with 24-karat gold sinks, mosaic floors and marble vanities and guests are attended by white-gloved butlers.

Hallways are lined with original chandeliers.

All but one residential unit has been sold, including one that went for US$50 million.

Elad Group also has plans to develop a chain of hotels based on The Plaza in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo and Tel Aviv.

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