At a glance: It seems every time I visit the Paramount has a new look. But in 2013 the hotel underwent a deep – and dramatic – transformation under its latest owner, flashy real estate developer Aby Rosen. And some $40 million later, it seems this iteration is here to stay, at least long enough to catch its breath.
Billeted in a1928 French Renaissance building, Paramount stands smack in the middle of the Broadway Theater District, making it a smart place to meet for a pre- or post-theater drink or dinner even if you’re not staying.
The lobby, a football-size expanse, has been transformed into a dimly lighted lounge with well-designed conversation areas – sofas, club chairs, even a gigantic tufted leather daybed. Here you can check your messages, read a book (coffee table volumes are everywhere), sip a smoky espresso from Corso, the adjoining coffee house or meet up with friends. A glamorous gas-jet fireplace throws off heat and good looks. And a DJ on the mezzanine spins most nights.
The more than 600 rooms still include some of the smallest in town. But they’ve been refashioned and updated. And if all traces of the hotel’s iconic Ian Schrager/Philippe Starck décor from the late 80’s are gone, well, it was time.
Rooms: Room size is a perennial complaint at the Paramount. Too many are too tiny, and the recent renovation hasn’t changed that.
The teeniest – and cheapest – contain a twin bed and not much else. Queen-bed rooms are tight, too. But king-bed rooms are big enough for two. And the freshly renovated rooms I saw looked spiffy, smelled fresh (the stale cigarette odor is gone) and make the most of their close quarters.
Rooms emit a midcentury vibe – dark wood panels behind the beds, domed 50’s-style lamps and tulip chairs pulled up to Plexiglas desks that wisely take up almost no visual space. The former red palette has been replaced by cool blues – teals, aqua’s, royals. The white walls remain, and the rooms I saw looked clean.
Fit and finish isn’t perfect – this is an old hotel – but with newly skim-coated walls, fresh hardware (the old stuff was hideous) and resurfaced tubs in the teeny, newly tiled bathrooms, the hotel is cleaner, sleeker and more inviting than it’s been in years. Best of all, the old window air conditioners are gone, replaced by central heating and A/C.
Food and drink: Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the glamorous Paramount Grill, a dimly lighted ground floor restaurant behind the lobby with a lounge vibe. The Grill looks like a continuation of the lobby with a tufted leather-lined bar, a long row of tables with an upholstered bench on one side, midcentury-inspired armchairs on the opposite and leather booths galore. The all-day menu features locally sourced American comfort staples like shrimp cocktail, chicken pot pie, pork chop with a maple glaze and assorted salads.
For coffee, snacks, pastries and light bites Corso occupies the cheery Carerraa marble-lined digs once home to Dean & Deluca. The new specialty is wood-roasted espresso that’s smokey and quite good.
New is the revival of the Diamond Horseshoe, the legendary subterranean nightclub that wowed them in the 1930’s and 40’s and inspired a movie starring Betty Grable. The floor show is Queen of the Night, an “opera moderne” that’s a fanciful mash-up of the life of the eccentric early 20th-century Italian heiress Marchesa Luisa Casati and The Magic Flute. Created by impresario Randy Weiner, mastermind behind Sleep No More, the wildly successful interactive theater extravaganza, it’s accompanied by an art-inspired dinner – fish presented whole on a chandelier, fried chicken in bird cages. No I haven’t seen it, but I’ll be blogging about it if I do. Renovation of the Horseshoe is said to have cost $20 million, by the way.
Amenities: WiFi ($15.95 a day). Pets under 20 lbs. allowed ($125 cleaning fee). Compact fitness room.
Surroundings: In the thick of Times Square and the Theater District. The block’s other occupants include the Richard Rogers and Lunt-Fontaine theaters and the New York headquarters of the Church of Scientology. The TKTs booth, restaurants, movie theaters, Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Odditorium are nearby. Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park and the New York Public Library are not far. And Lincoln Center is an easy reach by subway or bus, as are downtown destinations, like Chelsea, the West Village, SoHo and Tribeca. The subway station is four short blocks away. Bus stops are even closer.
Back story: The Paramount was a scary old Times Square hotel (built in 1928) when Philippe Starck and Ian Schrager turned it into a budget version of the Royalton, their first hip boutique hotel, in 1990. Even after its makeover it was never plush – when I first stayed shortly after the hotel opened, the toilet in my room was old and stained. But corners were cut cleverly to give an aura of luxury, particularly in the lobby, a large, vaguely Deconstructionist expanse that quickly became a scene (the curved silver-leaf wall by the staircase is still stunning).
In 2004, the hotel was sold to the Hard Rock Cafe and scheduled for renovation (good-bye Starck cocktail lamps, hello rock memorabilia). Instead, it morphed into a tourist hotel with a few hip flourishes. Highgate Holdings, who took over from Hard Rock and envisioned a jocky, non-skyscraper riff on the W Times Square, had taste and money, and the 2009 renovation, which included major work on the exterior, pointed to brighter days. But in spring 2011, the hotel was sold to real estate magnate/art collector Aby Rosen, the man who famously called the Picasso curtain in the Seagram Buidling a schmatte and wants to have it removed (he owns that building, too). In 2012 the hotel was renovated yet again with a smart lobby design by Meyer Davis Group. As mentioned above, big improvement.
Keep in mind: Rooms with anything less than a king-size bed are pushing it for two people. Though renovated, hallways still look a bit spooky.