Travel Pulse: Q&A Residential Hotel and the Return of Manhattan’s Financial District
By Charu Suri
If you had visited the Financial District after hours on any given day — even a few years ago — you would have felt that it resembled some sort of gilded morgue, with its pristine bank buildings, restaurants and even grocery stores shuttered past 6 p.m. (the bankers work well into the night, but that’s another story).
But today, the Financial District is actually trying — and succeeding in spades — to be quite trendy, hip and relevant.
It’s not just the opening of Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center) but also the hotels, restaurants and retail stores that are adding color and a homey vibe to a formerly sterile patch of Manhattan.
One of the shape-shifting hotel players on the scene is the Q&A Residential Hotel, whose CEO, Steve Brown, has had a forward-thinking vision of both the space and the district as a whole since it was established last year. The hotel, which has 132 apartment-sized suites, is also in the very distinguished former AIG building, with its gleaming marble tiles. To be accurate, although most people know it as the AIG building, it is the former Cities Service Building, which was purchased by AIG in the 1970s.
“We had the opportunity to be a part of the iconic skyscraper 70 Pine, a 66-story art deco landmark, which was a big draw,” Brown said. “Additionally, Q&A Residential Hotel is located in the heart of the thriving Financial District, in close proximity to most subway lines. It’s also near the downtown waterfront, exceptional shopping, and sightseeing musts and more, all located in lower Manhattan. This neighborhood is also growing in popularity and being part of that resurgence is a great place to be.”
The rooms are quirky and inspire creativity, and are designed with the theme of genius. Both Steve Saide, EVP of Design for Furnished Quarters, and Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Mondrian Hotels’ designer, collaborated to come up with design to foster the spirit of innovation.
So, you’ll find custom-designed black and white wallpaper that has math formulas (including calculus), a large, laminated print of groundbreaking patents filed by personalities that include Thomas Edison, Holland, the Wright Brothers, A.G. Bell and Benjamin Franklin, plus a cool looking chalkboard perfect for scribbling down your dreams or subliminal breakthroughs (this was a big hit with my little one). There is also an owl — that age-old symbol of wisdom — in each suite, and this wise bird is drawn on the chalkboard.
There is also much to take in nearby, including the recently-opened nautilus-shaped glass and steel Seaglass Carousel at Battery Park and Brookfield Place, of course. For those who cannot survive mornings without their flat white, Black Fox Coffee, an Australian artisanal cafe, will open in the lobby of 70 Pine itself, with hours that extend well past 8 p.m.
A large gourmet grocer, Urban Market, will also open on the building’s premises in 2016, which means guests of the Q&A hotel can prepare meals in their fully-furnished quarters and get their ingredients in the blink of an eye. There will also be a multi-floor rooftop food and beverage concept from April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman (of “The Spotted Pig” fame) opening in 2017, so, stay tuned for celebrity sightings…
Despite some of the hassle that inevitably comes with getting permission to turn a historic landmark building (these formerly contained office spaces) into a hotel, Brown said the process was absolutely worth it. “The demand for hotel rooms has been off the charts, and people love staying in the Financial District.”
And with its success, the tone has been set for other hotels to set up furnished quarters in this area. Larry Korman’s aka Wall Street, the brand’s first downtown property, is set to open in May. Several new dining establishments are also around the corner, including Luke’s Lobster at 26 S. William Street, and Smorgas Chef on 53 Stone Street, the oldest cobblestone paved street in Manhattan.
And if that’s not enough history to slake your thirst, go and have a drink where George Washington bade farewell to his troops, at the nearby Fraunces Tavern, which has a fine array of Irish stouts, porters, whiskeys and elaborate whiskey cocktails.
The Q&A Residential Hotel has 132 furnished rooms, and studios start from approximately $250 per night.