A boom in the five boroughs

Mondrian SoHo
270 rooms
9 Crosby St., Manhattan's SoHo area
Opened February 2011

Aloft Brooklyn
176 rooms
216 Duffield St., Brooklyn
Opened early 2011

Flatiron Hotel
64 rooms
1141 Broadway, Manhattan's Chelsea area
Opening early 2011

Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Brooklyn
135 rooms
181 Third Ave., Brooklyn
Opening early 2011

Four Points by Sheraton Long Island City
91 rooms
26-30 39th Ave., Queens
Opening early 2011

55 rooms
30 Kenmare St., Manhattan's Nolita area
Opening early 2011

Sanctuary Hotel (Portland Square Hotel)
115 rooms
132 W. 47th St., Manhattan's Times Square area
Opening/reflagging early 2011

Holiday Inn Jamaica Queens/JFK Airport
195 rooms
Rockaway and Brookville Blvds., Queens
Opening mid-2011

Hyatt 48 Lex
116 rooms
517 Lexington Ave., Midtown Manhattan
Opening mid-2011

Hotel Indigo
172 rooms
237 Duffield St., Brooklyn
Opening mid-2011

Dream Downtown
316 rooms
346 W. 17th St., Manhattan's Meatpacking District
Opening mid-2011

Holiday Inn
244 rooms
50 Trinity Place, Manhattan's Financial District
Opening mid-2011

669 rooms (pods)
570 10th Ave., Manhattan's Times Square area
Opening mid -2011

Hotel Americano
56 rooms
518 W. 27th St., Manhattan's Chelsea area
Opening mid-2011

SpringHill Suites by Marriott
112-01 Northern Blvd., Queens
Opening mid-2011

Best Western Staten Island
111 rooms
290 Wild Ave., Staten Island
Opening late 2011

Clarion Brooklyn
65 rooms
1120 36th St., Brooklyn
Opening late 2011

Hampton Inn
150 rooms
231 E. 43rd St., Midtown Manhattan
Opening 2011

NoMad Hotel
160 rooms
1170 Broadway, Manhattan's Chelsea area
Opening late 2011

175 rooms
132 Fourth Ave., Manhattan's Union Square area
Opening late 2011

Conrad New York
463 rooms
102 North End Ave., Manhattan's Battery Park City area
Opening late 2011

Comfort Inn
48 rooms
3070 Webster Ave., Bronx
Opening late 2011

Four Points by Sheraton
(number of rooms to be announced)
Jamaica Ave., Queens
Opening late 2011

Hampton Inn
62 rooms
32 Pearl St., Manhattan's Financial District
Opening late 2011

NEW YORK -- The first time I laid eyes on New York's Greater Harlem neighborhood, it was from a walled promenade on Morningside Drive, on the east side of Columbia University. Looking out over a wooded bluff, I watched a group of youths breaking into a car.

That was in 1992, before the much-publicized gentrification of what was then among Manhattan's most dangerous neighborhoods.

My most recent trip to the Big Apple, in March, marked my first return to Harlem in 19 years, this time to the heart of a now trendy neighborhood to take in one of the city's newest hotels, the Aloft Harlem.

The Aloft HarlemThe opening of the Aloft last year, just two blocks from Harlem's renowned Apollo Theater, was a historic event for this much-changed neighborhood, giving Harlem its first major hotel in more than 40 years. But it is also a symbol of the health and diversity of the New York hotel market.

Not only are the city's hotels thriving, their numbers continue to grow, and they are spreading far beyond the industry's traditional midtown roots into boroughs and neighborhoods where tourists just a few years ago might never have thought to venture, let alone stay.

The new hotels are particularly attractive for repeat visitors weary of the midtown scene, said Chris Heywood, vice president of travel and tourism public relations for NYC & Company, the city's marketing and tourism agency.

"For repeat visitors ... they do look for something a little different," Heywood said. "They want to feel like they are living like a New Yorker, living like a local, and I think sometimes these hotels really lend themselves to those who are seeking something more experiential in the city, off the beaten path a little bit."

While many of the new hotels in downtown and neighborhoods like SoHo are luxury and boutique properties, many of the new hotels offer tourists less expensive options. Before the economic downturn, it was hard to find a decent hotel room in Manhattan for under $500 a night. Anything cheaper was risky.

"That was a big perception challenge that we had to deal with," Heywood said.

But thanks to a building boom that began before the economic collapse, the city now has a growing list of reputable midscale brands from all the big hotel companies. And their properties are popping up from midtown to Brooklyn to Queens, downtown and trendy neighborhoods like SoHo.

"There is a lot of variety of experience, of location, of budget, so you can literally spend $100 or $1,000 on a room in New York," Heywood said.

"I think the fact that there are these options makes it more compelling and it expands our audience. People who might not have considered a trip five years ago may start to reconsider, and they won't be turned away by the price point."

Indeed, despite trying economic times, people are still flocking to the Big Apple. New York drew a record 48.7 million visitors in 2010, a higher-than-expected 6.8% increase over 2009 and a number that keeps the city on pace to meet its goal of attracting 50 million visitors a year by 2012, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office.

The hospitality industry added 6,600 jobs in the city last year, employing more New Yorkers in 2010 than ever before. The city also set a record for hotel rooms added and hotel rooms sold, while attendance at cultural institutions rose.

Surviving disasters

With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the horizon, the numbers show that New York has survived not one but two events that had the potential to -- and many predicted would -- devastate the city's hospitality and tourism markets.

The second was the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, the first domino to fall in what would become a rapid collapse in the financial and banking industries.

Some "thought it was the end of New York as we know it," said Jan Freitag, vice president of global development for Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotel performance and development around the globe.

But, just like after 9/11, the tourism market and hotels rebounded. In fact, coming out of the most recent economic downturn, New York led the hospitality industry.

The Crosby Street SoHoDuring the first quarter of 2011, hotel occupancy in New York was 70.1%, fifth in the top 25 markets tracked by STR and well above the 54.9% national average. For 2010, the city posted an average occupancy rate of 85%.

Average daily rate in New York leads the country at $197, almost twice the national average of $99.37.

"It was quite interesting," Freitag said. "The coastal markets -- Boston, New York, San Diego -- got hit disproportionately harder [at the beginning of the downturn], but they also bounced back more quickly."

While New York rates are climbing, the average rate is still about $100 below the city's peak. But even with all the supply, Freitag said he expected rates and occupancy to continue climbing.

90,000 rooms and counting

New York tops the list of target markets for virtually every global brand looking to expand. And the strong demand is evident in development activity across all five boroughs.

Last year, more than 30 properties opened, adding some 500 new rooms to the city's inventory every month, according to NYC & Company. Since 2008, nearly 14,000 new rooms have come online, giving the city an active inventory of nearly 90,000 rooms.

Another 24 hotels are expected to open this year, including newbuilds, renovations and redevelopments of iconic and historical buildings.

Just as telling, 40% of the hotels opening in 2011 are in New York's outer boroughs: Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

And it's in those boroughs, such as in Long Island City in Queens, where visitors can find great deals.

"That's where you can find extraordinary value but you are very, very close [to Manhattan]," Heywood said. "I think there is a perception gap there, where people think it is really much farther than it is. You can hop on the N train from Fifth Avenue or Bloomingdale's and you get out to the Holiday Inn [in Queens], and realize that you did it in about 10 minutes. And so you'll have a Holiday Inn and a Four Points by Sheraton. There is also a Country Inn & Suites."

The trend is similar in Brooklyn, which recently got a full-service Sheraton and will soon have an Aloft and a Fairfield Inn & Suites.

The Mondrian SoHoAt the Aloft Harlem, sales manager Patricia Gilles said rates were 15% to 20% lower than in midtown Manhattan. And the hotel is popular with visitors to nearby Columbia University.

The Aloft, a lifestyle brand designed by Starwood as a "little sister" to its W brand, features the WXYZ bar, which has become a popular watering hole for the neighborhood.

A number of familiar midscale brands are also popping up around Manhattan, offering less expensive options in midtown and the typically pricey downtown and SoHo neighborhoods.

Near the Port Authority and the new New York Times building, for example, in what used to be one of Manhattan's sketchier neighborhoods, there is a now a lineup of Staybridge Suites, Four Points by Sheraton, Holiday Inn Express and Fairfield Inn. The rooms might be smaller than one would find in a typical midscale "suites" product in, say, the Midwest, but the hotels offer reliable, affordable new options in midtown.

"It's not a consolation prize to stay in a limited-service property anymore," Heywood said. "I think the Staybridge Suites is one example where it's a very comfortable property. It's great for business travelers. It's very accessible. And you don't have to give up what you are used to ... or if you are a business traveler have that experience compromised by staying in a different type of hotel."

Luxury lives

Still, the influx of midscale brands is not threatening New York's reputation as the lap of luxury. The building boom has also brought a wide range of new, high-end products, both from the big brands and independent and boutique operators.

In Manhattan the ultraluxurious Chatwal recently opened, joining Starwood's Luxury Collection. InterContinental has a new flagship in Times Square. Hyatt's new upper-upscale Andaz brand now has two hotels in New York, one in midtown and another downtown. SoHo has welcomed a number of new high-end properties, including a Mondrian, the Crosby Street Hotel and Trump SoHo, to name a few.

At the same time, a Courtyard by Marriott is opening in SoHo.

"That's kind of the beauty of all this," Heywood said. "All these various brands at different price points coexisting in the same neighborhoods."


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