Rooftop bars whet investor appetite
Rooftop bars whet investor appetite
05 AUGUST 2013 7:30 AM

Hoteliers’ appetites for rooftop bars have grown with outsized profit returns.

GLOBAL REPORT—Outsized returns at many hotel rooftop bars are enticing more owners and developers to add the spaces to their properties—some of which are unconventional.

For example, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based owner and developer Vision Hospitality recently broke ground on a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Nashville Downtown @ the Gulch, which will have a rooftop lounge with meeting space, according to President and CEO Mitch Patel.

“We started seeing a lot of rooftop lounges being developed, especially in the last five years in New York,” Patel said. “We thought Nashville doesn’t have one, let’s just do it.”

Rooftop bars have been popping up in many gateway markets such as Chicago, Washington D.C.,and Los Angeles, among others.

The rooftop bar scene also has thrived in international hubs such as Madrid.

The ME Madrid Reina Victoria in 2006 underwent a redesign and transformation of the historic Gran Hotel Reina Victoria, at which time a rooftop bar concept was introduced, according to GM Raul Palomo.

Now, “The Roof” is Madrid’s hot spot.

“It’s the city’s hallmark spot,” Palomo said in an email. “It is the prime spot for languorous afternoons of relaxing and sunbathing, as well as sultry nights of sipping cocktails.”

Despite the push to add rooftop spots in other markets, New York remains at the forefront of the scene as more hotels continue to add to the city’s growing collection of rooftop lounges, sources said.

Refinery Hotel, which opened in May in New York’s Fashion District, had a perfect space and location for a rooftop bar. The turn-of-the-century hat factory turned luxury hotel is one of several adaptive reuses in the city to add the concept. In fact, 42% of the rooftop bars in New York were constructed atop pre-war buildings, according to a research study conducted by Jones Lang LaSalle.
New York-based architecture and interior design firm Stonehill & Taylor, which is responsible for several hotel rooftop projects including the NoMad Hotel and Ace Hotel, led the Refinery Hotel project.

“What we did is we thought about how the building was used when it was built,” said Christina Zimmer, principal at Stonehill & Taylor. “We took the duality of refined front-of-house tea space and the industrial factory things to inspire the design concept.”

Refinery Hotel

The 3,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor rooftop lounge atop Refinery Hotel in New York's Fashion District.

The 197-room Refinery Hotel drew much of its design inspiration from the building’s past, Zimmer said.

The hotel’s first-floor bar, Winnie’s, pays homage to Miss Winifred T. McDonald, an original tenant of the building, and all guestrooms have concrete ceilings, distressed hardwood floors and sewing machine-inspired desks. The 3,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor rooftop lounge also repurposed water tanks that were found atop the building, Zimmer said.

“We took the inside of the water tank and made wood planks that make up the ceiling in the rooftop space,” she said. “It has a really warm aesthetic by using this wood.”

Perhaps the most important part of the rooftop space is its retractable glass skylight that offers transparent views of sunsets and the Empire State Building, Zimmer said.

“So even in the winter, when the skylight’s closed and there might be snow, it’ll still be romantic setting,” Zimmer said, adding that the rooftop will be open year round.

Fairfield Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown @ The Gulch

A rendering of the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Nashville Downtown @ the Gulch, which will have a rooftop lounge with meeting space.

Vision worked with Washington D.C.-based OPX, a design consultancy that has worked on other Marriott International projects, to bring an “urban theme with a little mix of the Nashville music scene” to the rooftop lounge at its Fairfield Inn & Suites property, which is expected to open in Spring 2014.

“It was best to use this company because it would be easier to get things approved,” Patel said of OPX. “What we’re doing with a Fairfield Inn & Suites is very unconventional, so we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to have big resistance.”

The rooftop lounge will be an ideal venue for hosting small business meetings and wedding receptions given the hotel's close proximity to Nashville's City Center, which is just a few blocks away, and the indoor/outdoor bar that is connected to the hotel’s eighth-floor meeting space, Patel said.

The Gulch area of Nashville is an up-and-coming, revitalized area with a booming night life, he said, so the Fairfield was a good property to “take the plunge” with.

The rooftop, and the hotel’s overall design, will pursue LEED certification to help further integrate the hotel into the neighborhood, which has been a LEED Green Neighborhood since November 2009.

Patel added that Vision is already in the design stages of adding several rooftop concepts to urban hotels in its pipeline.

ME Madrid

London-based architecture team United Designers Limited oversaw the ME Madrid project.

The Roof at ME Madrid offers a panoramic view of Plaza Santa Ana, which is attractive for guests dining in the outdoor “vintage and modern restaurant with capacity for 40 people where guests can enjoy a conceptual and modern cuisine with local author touch,” GM Palomo said.

In addition to the restaurant, the rooftop’s outside area has eight private VIP-spaces and room for standing, he said. Indoor, guests can enjoy the comfortable lounge and bar or take a seat at the exclusive VIP bar, where Madrid’s “most glamorous guests” gather for private parties.

ME Madrid’s rooftop is not only designed for luxury but for sustainability and security, Palomo said.

“The hotel itself is a Biosphere hotel that involves constant improvement in the processes and systems that support the inclusion of sustainability,” he said. “The Roof is designed for security with the locals and with the guests that stay there …

“The Roof is open to locals and to guests, but guests who stay at the hotel don’t have to pay a fee to get in, moreover they have a private lift to access. The normal access is from the street with another lift that only operates from parking and street level to the seventh floor where The Roof is located.”

Keith Hobbs and his team at the London-based architecture team United Designers Limited were in charge of the ME Madrid transformation project.

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