If I owned the Plaza
Today I read about how the dreams for the Plaza are fading. The apartments are selling at a loss, the retail shops are closing, the classic Palm Court has shut down with supposed plans to open again this spring and they are actually putting a food court in the basement. A food court?
Although I am certainly all about new, new, new, there is something to be said about preserving traditions. That is why cities like NYC take the Landmarks Department very seriously. We gutted a brownstone 10 years ago and Landmarks made us keep 2 sets of back bay windows. We didn't have to put them back in the same exact location but they had to be somewhere in the back of the house. Frustrating yes, but after it was all said and done, I am thrilled that they made us keep them. History is part of the house and the windows preserve the past even though the rest of the house is completely modern. The people who own the Plaza should take a step back with a fresh set of eyes and look at how the Plaza should be preserved while remaining vibrant in the 21st century.
First of all, take a look at the people who own in the building and who have stayed there since it was re-open. Do a survey. What are they looking for when they stay at the Plaza and what are their expectations living there. Take all that information internally. Then take a hard look at how people with the same economic backgrounds are living their lives on a day to day basis be it how they shop, how they eat but especially how they live.
Regardless of how much money you have, people are not as extravagant as they were back in the day. I would bet that every event that has been thrown at the Plaza in the Grand Ballroom over the past year has tried to be a little bit more low key. It is where we are not only as a country but it is where we are all over the world.
More and more people of all ages in NYC want to go to the newest hippest restaurant. That wasn't the case 20 years ago. Look at which restaurants are succeeding. Take a look at the decor in the restaurants and the appeal be it Marea or Marlow and Sons which are at complete different ends of the spectrum.
The Plaza should have an air of elegance. I'd put together an advisory committee that included the top restaurateurs and top retailers to start. When I say top, I am talking about the latest crop of successful businesses in these areas. The guys behind Marlow and Sons, David Chang, Gabriel Stulman, the owners behind Dresslers, Danny Meyer, and so on. Innovative thought leaders who are on the cutting edge of NYC in the restaurant business. For retailers, the owners behind Opening Ceremony or Odin and then the Michael Kors and Donna Karan's of the world who sell high end merchandise. I'd also bring in some of the top cutting edge jewelers. These people are making it in NYC, they are creating environments that are working today. For instance, why isn't there a boutique chocolate shop in the Plaza instead of a huge chain like Godiva? Why aren't there luxury stores that are New York centric that not only appeal to the parents but also appeal to the youth.
I'd also add architects to the list. Not the same old architects like David Rockwell that does everything over the top and IMHO not very elegant. Think young smart architects that are thinking differently with new fabrications creating sophisticated modern looks. I keep thinking about the Rocco Forte hotels that have created that modern sophisticated feel in everyone of their hotels. Each hotel fits the flavor and vibe of the city.
We are witnessing other old school New York institutions close more and more. It is sad but that is the reality if you don't keep up with a changing environment. The Plaza needs to rethink who they need to be in order to survive the life altering shift that our city is going through. Don't think old, think new. New would be much more appealing to a broader audience than the stuffy feel that the Plaza now represents.