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Born a hotel, Delmonico's returns to its roots.

These days the staff at Delmonico's is polishing their buttons a little harder and holding their heads a bit higher.

That's because the 20-story building, on Park Avenue at 48th Street, that had been an apartment house since 1972, is returning to its roots as a hotel.

Delmonico's current owner is keeping the number of units the same and is offering one- and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens for transient stay.

"So the hotel, in a sense, will be back where it was many, many years ago," said Joe Kaminski, Delmonico's general manager and the overseer of the conversion.

Designed by Goldner & Goldner, "The Delmonico," emerged in 1929 as a 550-room hotel. The establishment had its share of history. Ed Sullivan lived there for a time and the Beatles stayed at The Delmonico when they made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. In 1972, Bill Zeckendorf purchased the building and re-introduced it as 170-unit apartment building. The building was purchased by Elizabeth Kleinhans and her family in 1982, at .which time there were a number of empty units. The conversion into the hotel began some two and one-half years ago.

To help execute the plan, Kleinhans brought in Kaminski, 28, who, despite his young age, had worked at a number of hospitality operations, including: Doral Inn, Raddison Empire and the U.N. Plaza.

To date, they have spent roughly $2 million, Kaminski said, and completed 102 suites and they plan to soon total 130. Forty of the rooms are still occupied as apartments.

"As [the tenants] leave, they'll become hotel rooms too," he said.

But while Kaminski knows hotels, the goal, he said, was to maintain the "homey" feel of an apartment house while offering hotel-type services.

"We did everything to prevent it from looking like a hotel," said Kaminski.

While they have installed new furnishings and rugs, the have not reconfigured the rooms. And, in a number of cases, they left the touches that the apartment dwellers had added.

"We kept that and decorated around them," he said.

Delmonico's, once a 550-room hotel and later an apartment building, is now suites hotel.

There is not a huge front desk in the center of the lobby, but rather a small concierge's desk off to the side.

Kaminski said he could not reveal the purchase price. The Kleinhanses own a select few buildings in Manhattan, he said, and they are very "private and personal" about their investments.

The goal of the conversion, Kaminski said, was maximizing value. The revenue on each unit, he said, is between $4,000 and $7,000 per month.

"If the building is pretty much empty and it is working as a hotel, it increases the value greatly," Kaminski said.

The move by the Kleinhanses is unusual in light of the hotel market's troubles. Despite a recent uptick, losses in the hotel sector are causing many investors to bail out. Among the New York hotels that are currently up for sale, are: The New York Palace and Citicorp's portion of the Plaza.

And, according to hotel analyst Stephen Brener, the conversion of apartment buildings into hotels is contrary to what many operators are doing. Rather, he said, many hoteliers are turning their establishments into mixed-use operations, combining, for example, senior citizen living with transient hotel rooms.

Bargain on Park

Delmonico's, Kaminski believes, currently offers a bargain in the Big Apple. While the average hotel room in the city, he said, averages 150 square feet and the price for suites ranges from $200 to well over $1,000 per night, Delmonico's offers 650 to 2,000-square-foot suites and rates start at $175 per night and go up to $500 per night.

"At 59th and Park that's a deal," he said.

According to Kaminski their reception into the hospitality scene has been

"In just a year and one-half, we really exploded into the hotel market," said Kaminski, who reports that the hotel was 70 percent occupied in January.

The building's retail and commercial tenants include Christie's, which occupies the former grand ballroom and banquet room of The Delmonico.

Kaminski said they are drawing their guests from corporate America and they are attracting a huge Brazilian following.

"The mission started booking rooms here and ... they just started coming here by the planeload," said Kaminski. "We've been written up in Brazil at least 15 or 20 times with full-page layouts reading 'Delmonieo's Returns.'"

While a number of New York apartment buildings are converted hotels, Kaminski said, they never return to their hotel status.

"This hotel came back as a hotel and everybody knows the history," said Kaminski.
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Title Annotation:apartment building at Park Avenue, New York, New York converts to hotel
Author:Fitzgerald, Therese
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 1993
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