London's Park Lane Showcases Restored Art Deco Ballroom

by Donna Tunney LONDON -- ITT Sheraton's first move after buying the Park Lane Hotel here was to restore the five-star property's ballroom to its original art deco grandeur. The $1 million project followed Sheraton's $70 million purchase of the hotel last April from private hands and was designed to bring the Park Lane's ballroom up to the standards of London's surprisingly few grand halls. "There aren't all that many ballrooms in London, just a handful of really nice ones, but there is a great demand for them," Patrick Stevenson, Park Lane sales and marketing director, said in an interview at the Piccadilly property. "Basically, you've got three or four comparable ballrooms we can now compete very nicely with the likes of, say, the Savoy, the Dorchester, maybe the Four Seasons. And we are getting a good number of bookings," Stevenson said. The room seats 450, and sports a relaxed color scheme of deep lavender, rose and white. Multimedia staging makes the room suitable for business functions, and turn-of-the-century light fixtures add a romantic ambience for private events, such as weddings. The Park Lane has 306 rooms and was in the process of upgrading guest rooms and suites when Sheraton stepped in. According to Stevenson, 30% of room upgrades were completed, but the project was put on hold following the acquisition. He said the renovation of rooms resumed this winter, and the hotel's sprawling lobby will be revamped, as well. New furniture, artwork and marble flooring are planned for the lobby, which is a favorite meeting venue for guests. As one guest noted, the Park Lane lobby, with its round-the-clock menu service, may be the only place in London where one can get a full meal served in a public room late at night -- or even in the middle of the night. Stevenson said that renovations to the lobby will be carried out in stages, and it will remain open during the upgrade. He said that Sheraton's eagerness to invest in the hotel's restoration signals the company's intention to preserve its landmark status. (It was unclear how Hilton Hotels' recent bid to take over ITT Corp., parent of Sheraton, would affect the firm's future plans for the Park Lane.) Built in 1906, the property has been popular with well-to-do travelers who, nine decades ago, arrived by horse-drawn carriage and lodged their servants in a building next door to the hotel, which now houses administrative offices. The Park Lane is located on Piccadilly facing Green Park, and several suites front the building. The nearest tube station, Green Park, is about three blocks away. In addition to the lobby, dining venues at the Park Lane include Bracewell's Restaurant, and a breakfast room. There also is a bar, just inside the Piccadilly entrance. Reception is located at the Brick Street entrance. Rates for a standard double begin at about $370. Reservations can be made through Sheraton at (800) 325-3535.

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