mong the most desirable attributes of my apartment building in New York City was that there was a car wash around the corner. It wasn't that we residents saw an advantage in having a convenient place to wash our cars -- in fact, very few of us actually own a car -- but the car wash was popular with taxi drivers, and we enjoyed not only the boon of abundant cabs, but the double boon of abundant clean cabs.

However, one dark, gray morning about a year ago, the car wash closed down. And with its passing, the number of taxis cruising by our building dropped dramatically.

The car wash was razed, and construction crews moved in. Soon, rumors passed from the hard hats to the key gossips of the neighborhood: the doormen. The doormen reported confidently that a chain hotel was being built on the site.

The first question we all had, of course, was: What effect will this have on the taxi situation?

Will more cabs cruise by in hopes of snaring hotel guests? Will the hotel guests get all of our cabs?

While I certainly shared this parochial concern, it also started me thinking about the process behind the oft-repeated criteria for choosing hotel development sites: location, location, location.

What, specifically, did this chain see in this particular setting that made it attractive?

It's in a residential part of Manhattan that is a virtual hotel desert -- the closest property is more than a mile away (as is anything a visitor would actually want to see).

Did the company consider the infrastructure in the immediate vicinity? Did they count restaurant tabletops? Shopping opportunities? Did they worry at all that guests may be wary about staying in a property across the street from public housing?

Did they worry about the number of available cabs for guests?

The chain mentioned in the rumor was unable to confirm anything or comment about the location selection process, so for insight I called one of its competitors, Bill Sipple, Carlson's corporate vice president of development for full-service hotels in the Americas.

Sipple said that, after sorting out whether a location will serve the brand and its guests, they commission an independent analysis of the market that, among other things, considers supply and demand, and the operational economics.

And if it's not a full-service property, part of the analysis takes into account "adequate support" such as restaurants and lounges.

Sipple said that development includes neighborhood impact assessments -- it's often required in obtaining building permits in cities -- and that impact on traffic patterns is part of that.

"Sometimes developers will take the initiative and talk with neighborhood groups. They want to be good neighbors," Sipple said.

"And by 'traffic,' " I said, "do you mean checking to see if there are an adequate number of taxis?"

He laughed. "I suppose so."

The laugh left me thinking it was not at the top of most checklists, or, at any rate, wouldn't qualify as a deal-breaker.

I'm still not sure what flag my new neighbor will fly, but if you're a hotelier reading this and you're about to move into an area of Manhattan that fits the description above, please give me a call.

I want to see the traffic report.


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