The Maxwell has the distinction of being one of the first major New York City hotels to close permanently during the Coronavirus outbreak.
But to be fair, the hotel was teetering before the pandemic arrived.
The first coffin nail came in April 2018 when the W New York was booted out of the purposefully hip W hotel chain, now a part of Marriott, and renamed the Maxwell. It was a newsworthy de-branding. W New York opened in 1998, the very first hotel in the W chain.
The hotel was historic in its way. The first boutique brand to be launched by a large hotel corporation, it joined solid but stodgier compatriots like Sheridan and Westin under the Starwood umbrella. These days boutique brands created by large hotel corporations are almost too numerous to mention. Consider Aloft, Moxy, Even Hotels, Edition, TRYP by Wyndham and 1 Hotels for starters. But 22 years ago, independently run boutique properties like Morgan and Royalton ruled the day.
W New York introduced the now-classic W recipe — lobbies called Living Rooms, high-concept restaurants, pillow-top beds, Bliss spas and pulsating bars aimed at sexy locals. It also incorporated the 90s boutique hotel formula to a T — resurrect a run-down urban heap, install fresh bathrooms, replace the floral bedspreads with white-sheeted duvets and orchestrate a big, buzzy lobby to distract guests from the fact that their exquisitely choreographed guest rooms were the size of monk cells.
The hotel was showing its age in 2014 when it underwent its final hail mary renovation. The revamped Living Room offered a promising start with a curtain of tubular lights that continually changed color, easing from moody pastels by day into nightclubby magentas and golds. The adjoining bar — daytime coffee and snacks, night time drinks — was an appealing place to hang out, catch up on work (everyone wielded an iPhone or laptop) or just revel in the elbow room, especially sweet if you were staying in an aptly named Cozy Room (130 to 150 square feet).
But too many of the 698 rooms were too teeny for the W price, which could explode to $500 a night during peak season. Even a hanger rod that lights up when you open the closet door won’t cut it when you have to squeeze past the wall and the foot of your stylish bed to get out of the door.
As we wrote in what turned out to be our final review, “though the hotel calls itself a boutique, under its slick surface it’s basically a large business property, brisk, bustling and ready for acton.”
Enter Tribute Portfolio, a subset of Marriott specializing in agreeably priced, design-forward hotels in urban settings. The defrocked W fit Tribute like a glove. And new prices in the $150 to $250 range a night were more realistic, though a facility fee bumped things up. From our lone visit last year, nothing had changed except the name. Reviews on TripAdvisor ranged from “great location, great value for money” and “stylish design” to “photos don’t match reality.”
It wasn’t enough to survive a coronavirus closure. So RIP Maxwell (and W New York). For a trendy boutique hotel, you had quite a run.