By Terry Trucco
At a glance: Elegantly packaged elbow room could be the biggest luxury the Conrad New York Downtown offers.
In a city jammed with tight spaces and close quarters nearly everything about this atrium hotel – built in 2000 as an Embassy Suites and spruced up into a more upscale Conrad in early 2012 – is expansive.
The lobby is airy and spacious; you could do cartwheels across the floor without bumping into anything. The rooms, all suites, start at 430 square feet. Even the artwork is grand scale – a 16-story rendering of Sol Lewitt’s Loopy Doopy, a feast of purple swirls plotted on a blue grid, marches up an entire wall extending from the lobby to the roof.
The renovation transformed a nice, middle-of-the-road chain hotel into a futuristic showpiece. Veil, Monica Ponce de Leon’s artful aluminum triangles suspended mid-air in an intricate network of webs, almost makes you forget you’re standing in a brute hotel atrium.
And an artfully placed collection of modern gray wool sofas turns the lobby into a collection of discrete spaces to meet up with friends, check your iPad or have a drink (the bar adjoins).
With an outskirts-of-the-Financial District location and perks like complimentary shoe shines and a first-rate barber shop, the hotel is clearly designed for business people (Goldman Sachs owns the property; apparently Embassy Suites wasn’t sufficiently upscale for its clients and staff). But the hotel is agreeable for families, too; the sitting area sofas in each suite are sleepers and the Regal Cinemas multiplex adjoins the building (too bad the complimentary Embassy Suites buffet breakfast is history).
But also history is this sense that the hotel could be in Nashville, Norfolk, Nyack, Needles – anywhere but New York.
Rooms: The suite I saw, styled in serene creams, grays and browns, felt like a businesslike, if compact, one-bedroom apartment with contemporary furniture and a hint of downtown style. (Those weird windows that looked onto the atrium are gone.) You could hold a small business meeting in the sitting area (a glass door styled like a shoji screen slides shut to separate sitting and sleeping rooms). A flatpanel TV sits atop an ample desk opposite a velvet club chair, a cool mid-century-inflected coffee table and a sleek sleeper sofa.
Handsome built-ins abound. A wet bar is outfitted with a Nespresso coffee maker, a phalanx of glasses and a minibar. And in the sleeping area, the wall-mounted 42-inch flatpanel TV is part of a good-looking configuration of closets and drawers opposite the king-size bed. (The room was one of the lucky ones with a heart-pounding Hudson view.)
The brand new bathrooms, encased in stone and marble, feature deep rectangular sinks and eco-friendly dual-flush toilets. A spacious, stone-clad stall shower merits a separate room.
Food and drink: Atrio, the hotel’s Mediterranean-inflected restaurant billeted in a chilly, white, retro-futuristic expanse off the lobby, serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend brunch and desserts. During warmer months much of the produce on your plate comes from the hotel’s roof garden.
The roof bar, Loopy Doopy, is open May through October and commands prime views of the Hudson River and Statue of Liberty. The bar menu includes small plates and drinks not available downstairs, like Prosecco and Popsicle ($22), a popular house specialty with liquor-infused popsicle in a large glass of Prosecco – which is available on tap.
Amenities: The fitness center is large, well equipped and has a wall of windows (views are minimal; it’s on a low floor). Comp shoeshine. Nespresso coffee makers in guest rooms. The hotel is eco-friendly and is aiming for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification. Roof bar. Guests can borrow bicycles (the path along the Hudson River is across the street). There’s a gift shop that’s a cut above the usual and a classic barber shop.
Cool detail: The clock in the fitness center spells out the time and is one of the cleverest wall clocks I’ve ever seen.
Surroundings: Situated not far from the southern tip of Manhattan, the Conrad is a block away from the Hudson River and about as far west as you can go. It’s also across the street from the World Financial Center, a behemoth office building with a large, mall-like shopping area (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, World Optical, Sunglass Hut, Erwin Pearl) and mid-range restaurants. Adjoining the hotel is a street of smart shops and restaurants, including Danny Meyers’ Blue Smoke Barbeque, Shake Shack and new North End Grill (two stars from The New York Times’ Pete Wells) as well as Blooms, the stylish florist that supplies Conrad’s statuesque lobby arrangements and sells camera-ready bouquets starting at $130.
Best of all, Regal Cinemas, an 11-screen multiplex connects to the hotel if you prefer a bigger screen than your guestroom flatpanel. The location is also great if you need to be in the Financial District or Tribeca or want to visit Ground Zero, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty or Brooklyn. But the nearest subway station is a hike, and buses are scarce. Getting to midtown is a schlep; expect to take taxis or Ubers.
Back story: The hotel was built from the ground up in 2000 as an Embassy Suites. It felt very mainstream American – rooms had windows facing the atrium, just like Embassy Suites elsewhere, and the adjoining businesses included Applebees and an 11-screen multiplex movie theater. It also had a first-rate contemporary art collection, including a large painting by Pat Steir and Sol Lewitt’s towering Loopy Doopy, the lobby showpiece.
In 2011, the hotel was purchased by the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, which has its headquarters across the street, and closed for renovations. It reopened in March 2012 as the first New York outpost of a more upscale Hilton International chain – the Conrad. The adjoining restaurants and shops have been bumped up a notch to include local business and restaurants overseen by master restaurateur Danny Meyer. Fortunately, the artwork remains, joined by new contemporary pieces. And Regal Cinema 11 still anchors the block.
In 2019 the hotel added Downtown to its name after Hilton opened the Conrad New York Midtown in the pink tower formerly home to London NYC.
Green Kudo: In March 2013 the hotel received LEED Gold certification for new buildings.
Keep in mind: The neighborhood bustles more than it once did but the hotel still feels isolated. Unless you like walking, you’ll probably wind up taking lots of Ubers or taxis.