Hilton’s NYC Flagship

The grand lobby at the 1,980-room Hilton New York is swirling with business people on the move. They’re walking with purpose and determination; there’s no “lobby socializing” here. If you imagine Grand Central Station as a 21st century hotel, this is what it feels likes. And that all-business vibe extends throughout the entire flagship Hilton, including the seriously well-planned, massive meeting infrastructure humming away in the heart of Manhattan.

The place looks good too. Hilton is spending $40 million to update all the main guestrooms with classy earth tone and white furniture/fabrics; modern and straightforward glass, metal and marble bathrooms with Crabtree & Evelyn bath goodies, and rollout desks with mesh chairs. Lots of little touches too, like the lights turning on when your feet hit the floor, bedside outlets and chic little reading lamps, etc.

When you’ve stayed in enough biz hotels, the common sense modernity is an welcome relief. The overall message says: We put a priority on what’s cool and comfortable, convenient and non-commercial. Enjoy your sleep.

“We don’t want to be perceived as your father’s Hilton anymore,” says Sasha D. Prince, director of groups sales. “You almost feel like you’re in someone’s apartment here.” Like the hotel, Prince is all business and know-how but eminently easy to hang out with.

The 150,000 sf of meeting space is dedicated to the 2nd-4th floors with airy, wide open portholes in the pre-convene promenade floor looking down into the lobby. There’s also New York’s largest ballroom, with a hydraulic lift, and every imaginable breakout size including 10 smaller rooms with big natural light.

During our time on the 2nd floor, we needed to be discreet while talking due to a group buyout that day.

“We’ll have a financial company say, ‘We’ll take the whole 2nd floor. Lock it down,’ and that helps with privacy and security,” says Prince.

“How’s business?” I ask.

“There’s so much built up compression after 2009. We’re slammed, we’re seeing an influx to the point where on one day I’ll field 30 leads.”

Time for lunch. We pull into the lobby level New York Marketplace restaurant, with a farm-to-fork mentality and healthy American fare in a market-like setting. Again, there’s that no-nonsense feeling of freshness and smarts, just steps away from the hub bub outside the front door at Avenue of the Americas and 54th street.

Which means, Hilton New York is directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art—where The Modern restaurant operates a private dining room for 64. Standing outside the lobby, within eyesite, Radio City Music Hall is a little to the right. Central Park is four blocks to the left, and you can walk to Carnegie Hall, Letterman and 30 Rock.

Me, I’m going shopping. First, Hilfiger’s mens store and Diesel’s flagship on 5th Ave one block over. Next up is Apple Store’s big post-mod glass cube, a run-through at Bergdorfs for fun, and then I pop into Harry Winston jewelers to see what’s new. You know, in case there’s a sale.