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
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
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
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
"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
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
I want to see the traffic report.