Two NYC hotels take different routes to promote wellness

The Even Hotel Times Square South opened in November.
The Even Hotel Times Square South opened in November.

NEW YORK ­— The first thing you’ll notice are the vertical gardens. At the 1 Hotel Central Park, they’re massive, rising three stories on the outside of the building and traversing almost a half block along Manhattan’s Avenue of the Americas. At the Even Hotel Times Square South, they’re a little more contained, taking up a 7-foot-high by 10-foot-wide swath of a wall just inside the hotel’s entrance on West 35th Street.

After that, things diverge a bit.

Having opened last August and last November, respectively, 1 Hotel Central Park and Even Hotel Times Square South represent the two nascent brands’ efforts to showcase their emphasis on health, wellness and sustainability in the most lucrative U.S. lodging market.

But whereas InterContinental Hotels Group’s Even upscale brand takes more of a “push” approach by promoting fitness and activity pretty much in every aspect of its product, 1 Hotels, from Barry Sternlicht’s SH Group, goes the “pull” route, attempting to lure guests into its wellness offerings with a bit more subtlety.

Walk into the Even property, a 150-room newbuild, and you’ll be greeted by a host behind an islandlike desk (no massive and room-dividing counter here) that offers a stack of rolled up and dampened washcloths for guests looking for a quick wipedown of their hands as they come in off the city streets. Behind the island are three tubs filled with different flavors of chilled, infused water, while a sand-and-rock display nearby represents what John Beck, the hotel’s director of rooms, calls “a slice of the Earth.”

Tour the rest of the public areas, and the hotel continues to push its combination of community and activity. There’s a street-level playroom that includes table tennis and foosball tables as well as board games. The hotel features a small stadium-seating area where guests can congregate, plug in (there’s an outlet behind the upholstery at each seating space), hold meetings or watch a large flat-screen TV.

The below-street-level eating area features food and beverage fare that includes steamed and baked items (nothing fried); grab-and-go items such as kale chips and organic beef jerky; coffee from Athens, Ga.-based Jittery Joe’s served out of a French press; and fresh-squeezed juice.

In addition, there’s an expansive gym featuring Cybex elliptical machines and other high-end equipment. So far, about 20% of the hotel’s guests have been using the gym, compared with a usage rate that usually hovers at less than 5% industrywide, according to Beck.

Upstairs, the Even’s rooms continue to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Each includes a training zone that offers resistance ropes, a yoga mat, a yoga ball and an ottoman-type piece of furniture that can also be used for workouts (as well as Clorox wipes to prevent things from getting too funky).

The hotel has produced 20-minute workout videos, gives away Even-branded water bottles and offers a service for guests to get their workout clothes laundered within as little as two or three hours. Finally, Even promotes a good night’s rest via its Simmons Beautyrest mattresses, blackout shades and triple-pane glass windows.

The 1 Hotel, in contrast, caters to its wellness-seeking guests with a softer sell. Guests entering from the bustle of midtown are greeted with hanging plants and the hotel’s pleasant “signature scent” of cedar, vetiver and lemons that is piped through its lobby (on its website 1 Hotels says the scent will “take you straight to the forest floor in just one whiff”).

The property features a mix of earth tones and reclaimed wood.

The 1 Hotel features a mix of earth tones and reclaimed wood. Pictured, the Jams restaurant.

True to the idea of reclamation in the name of sustainability, the 229-room 1 Hotel was developed out of a former office building, and the earthy feel is complemented by the beams and bricks commensurate with the urban-chic vibe that continues to be popular in hotels. Additionally, the lobby bleeds into Jams, a restaurant helmed by chef Jonathan Waxman that specializes in locally sourced fare.

The guestrooms exude a sense of calmness amid the urban environs. Window nooks include mini-gardens. Ceilings and floors feature wood that was either reclaimed from old barns in the tri-state area or recovered from dismantled rooftop water towers throughout the city. Triple-filtered water comes out of the taps, the bed linens are all organic and the beds feature hemp-blend mattresses. Many rooms also feature peekaboo (and, in an early-June visit, very green) views of Central Park one block north.

Finally, there’s the gym area, which is called the Field House. Featuring the requisite exercise equipment, the gym also uses a wooden floor that was reclaimed from the University of Wisconsin’s basketball court.

Both hotels compete in a New York market that remains the country’s most expensive but is also becoming progressively more competitive because of the influx of new properties.

Still, room rates appear to indicate that the hotels are having no trouble attracting wellness-seeking guests. Late July weekend rates at 1 Hotel Central Park start at about $325 a night and work their way up to more than $3,125 for a two-bedroom greenhouse suite.

Competing in a more moderate sector, the Even Hotel is still quoting weekend rates in late July starting at about $250 a night, and Beck said it is “sold out most nights.”


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