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Growing Pains: The New Gansevoort Park Ave

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A voluptuous painted-on pin-up girl welcomes swimmers at the new Hotel Gansevoort Park Ave's rooftop pool. (Credit: Hotel Gansevoort)

A voluptuous painted-on pin-up girl welcomes swimmers at the new Hotel Gansevoort Park Ave’s rooftop pool. (Credit: Hotel Gansevoort)

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By Julie Parise, CBSNewYork.com

The Hotel Gansevoort is a name most New Yorkers will recognize. It’s a staple of the city’s Meatpacking District that beckons a bevy of the most fashionable twenty-somethings, beautiful thirty-somethings, and fab forty-somethings on most nights.

That might be what you’d expect from the new Gansevoort Park Avenue. Don’t. When I received a guided tour of the new venue, hotel brass told us at CBSNewYork to consider the younger hotel the “older brother” to its well-known Meatpacking sibling.

And what a mature, well-dressed older brother it is. The Gansevoort Meatpacking features a DJ booth in its lobby, while the Gansevoort Park Ave opted for a cushier decor. Next to the entrance sits a fireplace, surrounded by plush armchairs and sofas donning either a houndstooth or sophisticated neon stripe design. Guests can get comfy beneath elaborate, handmade violet chandeliers designed by interior designer Andi Pepper.

But older doesn’t equal dull, and the bright colors of the lobby furniture are only the first hint. In constructing what they hope will be a more family-oriented hotel, officials said they wish to attract guests that are young at heart, but not necessarily young.

This is the challenge the new Gansevoort faces as it attempts to combine the leisure-loving reputation the brand is known for with the opulent, corporate atmosphere necessary to meet the high expectations that come with owning a Park Avenue address.

To do so, the hotel is going really big – on the little things.

The Gansevoort’s designers are huge on small touches, from the iPod Touches you’ll find in each of the 249 rooms — ranging in size from 475 square feet for a standard guest room to 1550 square feet for the largest suite — to the Prosecco grapes that infuse the hair and body products found in the glass-tiled bathrooms. Miniature chandeliers, an element apparently beloved by owners William and Michael Achenbaum, welcome you into your room, which also feature 65 inch televisions.

Yes, they definitely got the “Park Avenue” part right.

But when the vibrant color motif reappears in some of these tiny aspects – fuchsia floor-length curtains and cobalt blue bed sheets light up the guestroom living space – it’s a wonder if the color scheme was an attempt by decorators to veil the lavishness that’s synonymous with the street name.

The Gansevoort Park Ave also features a lot of not-so-little things. Well, I suppose you could call the four-door Porsche Paneramas that provide a drop-off service for guests 12 hours a day “little” when speaking strictly in terms of size, but the glass-enclosed spiral staircase leading you from the first to the second floor of Twenty33, the hotel’s bi-level bar? Not so much.

Nor would I classify the hotel’s trademark amenity, the rooftop pool, as “little” – though that is how I would describe the space offered to those looking for a poolside drink. Hotel officials stressed to us their desire to make Plunge, the hotel’s clubby pool bar and lounge, a hangout for New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike. But given the small space allotted to their feature attraction, it’s difficult to say for sure that the rooftop will become an ideal nightlife destination for large groups of party-hoppers.

main bar Growing Pains: The New Gansevoort Park Ave

Hotel Gansevoort Park Ave's Main Bar. (Credit: Hotel Gansevoort)

Look your finest if you do make the outing, as you may be out-dressed by the bartenders. Rooftop bar and pool staffers are fitted with Lacoste uniforms. Bottle service is available, but if simple is your style, you don’t have much choice for a cold draft. New Castle, Heineken and Amstel are the three beers on tap.

This isn’t to say the rooftop setup isn’t incredibly impressive. As I took my first few steps around the heated pool, I almost forgot I was in midtown Manhattan – until I glanced up to see the top of the Empire State Building. It’s as if the skyscraper is standing right behind you, looking over your shoulder, a reminder of the bustling metropolis you left below the instant you stepped in the elevator.

Hotel officials repeatedly mentioned the number of small children they’ve noticed playing poolside since the venue’s soft opening in August. For rates upwards of $400, however, it’s a wonder how many splashing, screaming children a paying guest would tolerate before taking business elsewhere.

On colder nights, guests can stay indoors at Plunge and settle in at one of the couches. Head down a flight of stairs, just past the ultra-VIP Blue Room (for those guests tight with the Achenbaums) to the Main Bar that overlooks Park Avenue and of course boasts oversized chandeliers, or grab an armchair at the mirrored Park Bar that runs along 29th Street.

Private party accommodations can be made for the Red Room, a closed-door bar and lounge area where once again, the minor touches make major statements. The lounge bears leather cushioned walls flaunting a ‘G’ pattern and seating areas with hidden compartments for personal belongings. Downstairs, the 33,000 square foot luxury ballroom, scheduled to be completed by Oct. 6, can provide the backdrop for an elegant 200 person wedding.

The exclusivity of most of the establishment, while certainly remarkable, seems to conflict with the goal of the midtown Gansevoort location: to become an elegant yet fun, albeit quieter hangout destination for locals. It is all quite impressive – breathtaking, even. It’s just intimidating, as well.

But the Park Ave officials did a fantastic job of achieving one goal: the Gansevoort has definitely grown up. Yet with the reputation of its younger brother already well established, there lies the possibility of an identity crisis.

Will the Gansevoort Park Hotel grow to be a strictly cosmopolitan crash pad, or will it succumb to the notoriety implied by its name, becoming instead a party to crash?

Gansevoort Park Ave NYC
420 Park Avenue South
New York, N.Y. 10016
(212) 317-2900
GansevoortPark.com

Julie Parise is the features editor for CBSNewYork.com.

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