I went to a walkthrough of the recently-opened Hyatt Union Square on Fourth Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets last night, to see what the first new hotel in the neighborhood in more than a decade looks like. As it happens, in many ways it looks like every other Hyatt I’ve visited. I mean that in a good way. The hotel boasts tastefully-furnished guest rooms, a friendly, helpful staff, and clean, airy public spaces: the kind of place that takes some of the pain out of business travel and adds a premium of pleasure to leisurely jaunts. This being franchise-averse Manhattan, though, it has a few cool downtown twists to help it fit into the Union Square area, which I’ve always considered the real heart of New York for people who actually live here (sorry, Times Square). Exhibit A: a cool sculpture by Brinton Jaecks called "Hypnagogia" (above) in the hotel’s independently-operated restaurant, The Fourth, featuring a series of discarded beds connected by hand-carved wooden chains. I looked at the sculpture, hanging as the massive, slightly twisted centerpiece to the two-level, three-meal restaurant, and wondered to myself: is Hyatt letting its freak flag fly? Maybe a little.
Other details from the Paul Vega-designed interior struck me as well. The casualness of the lobby area, where a squad of stylishly-dressed attendents manned a series of check-in kiosks, iPads at the ready to service guests on the fly, was a welcome departure from the airport-lounge sterility of many hotels catering to business travelers. The soft couches were nice too, adorned with throw pillows that you could actually throw (I dare you) and adjust for comfort as you’re flipping through the paper or checking your iPhone for the nearest Nespresso boutique, as I did.
And the guest rooms had everything you need for an impromptu hotel party, with big, bouncy beds, teardrop-shaped settees, and mini-bars that featured booze with indie cred, like Tito’s Vodka. Some rooms even had these amazing terrace balconies, perfect for
twisting one up when your record goes platinum taking in the sun’s rays on a warm summer morning with a cup of tea.
As a spirits enthusiast, I was impressed with the cocktail bar, Singl. Located off the lobby, it has an impressive selection of Scotches. I noticed a few favorites behind the bar, including Highland Park, Auchentoshen, Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and the smoky Speyside malt Benromach, which was served to me neat in the above Glencairn-style glass. Major points on the glassware.
Taking a cue from Lord Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower on 57th and Eighth, the designers preserved the brick facade of the original structure that stood at that address and created a tower rising in its center, a building-within-a-building that pays homage to the original design while adding space and plenty of 21st Century amenities.
All this is nice, but the best part of the Hyatt Union Square is its location. This opening is great news for business travelers who want to have some authentic, wild New York fun after all the meetings are over. It’s corporate enough that your company’s travel department won’t bat an eye about booking it for you, but it’s such an easy stumble from the city’s best bars, restaurants, and clubs that you’ll feel like you got one over on them. Seriously, unless you’re some kind of stuffed shirt, you don’t really want to stay in Midtown. Downtown’s where it’s at, and the Hyatt is in the sweet spot of downtown. If you need to get up to Times Square for your big presentation, the Union Square subway station is just around the corner.
No, the Hyatt isn’t as cool as, say, the NoMad, or the Ace, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a sleek, stylish hotel that’s suitable for business and leisure travelers alike, and it happens to be located in the neighborhood where almost all of my friends end up when the evening calls for dinner, drinks, and a little craziness. That’s more than cool enough. I might even pop in for another Scotch sometime.