New York City Is Back in Business and Brimming With New and Improved Venues
New York City has opened its arms to the world again, ready to host groups with an impressive lineup of recently opened or soon-to-open venues.
“It’s time to return to New York,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Co., the city’s official destination marketing organization and CVB, pointing to the increasingly vibrant atmosphere prevailing throughout the city. “As we all emerge from the pandemic, keeping an eye on the Delta variant, of course, our venues are prepared with the right safety protocols, and there's so much that has happened over the last year in terms of new infrastructure and venues, so there is a lot on offer right now.”
NYC & Co. recently launched two campaigns aimed at highlighting that energy and bringing business back to the city: “Commit to the Comeback: Meet Local NYC,” targeting the local community, and “It’s Time for New York City,” a $30 million global tourism recovery campaign that will also target the meetings and events industry.
According to Dixon, research conducted by NYC & Co. shows that consumers are ready to come back to New York, and the aim is to continue restoring confidence in the destination and speaking to the vibrancy of the city.
“It’s almost a golden opportunity for event organizers to seize on all of the excitement that’s happening here and move an event to New York or create one here,” Dixon said.
When they do, there will be plenty of fresh options to choose from, starting with a newly expanded Javits Center and a bevy of other additions.
Javits Center Expansion
Life at the Javits Center, one of the busiest convention centers in the U.S., has been anything but idle over the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The center closed for events last year but has been humming with other activity ever since, playing a key role in the recovery of the Empire State while operating as a COVID-19 field hospital, then as the largest vaccination site in the U.S., administering more than 600,000 shots.
Behind the scenes, it was also busy working on the final phase of a $1.5 billion expansion that was completed in May, adding 1.2 million square feet of total event space and some of the most cutting-edge features in the industry.
Now, the new and improved Javits is about to have another starring role in the destination’s resurgence as it reopens to full capacity for trade shows, conventions, conferences and other events this month, luring people back to New York and helping to support local businesses. The first event to mark the reopening of the center is NY NOW, the long-running wholesale market for the retail industry, which takes place Aug. 8-11. More than 40 other conferences, trade shows and events are scheduled at the newly expanded center through the rest of 2021.
“This expansion comes at a critical time for our city, our state and our industry and serves as a sign of hope and rebirth for New Yorkers,” said Alan Steel, president and CEO of the New York Convention Center Operating Corp. “With new dynamic spaces and a focus on sustainability and efficiency, this project will reduce our impact on the community while improving our operations and allowing us to host a greater variety of events than ever before.”
Features of the expansion include 90,000 sq. ft. of new exhibit space, which brings the center’s total to 500,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space on one level; 107,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 113,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space and a 480,000-sq-ft. truck marshaling facility.
New rooftop spaces are also in the mix, including a pavilion, an outdoor terrace and a greenhouse and a one-acre farm, where produce will be grown for the convention center’s banquet operations.
According to Steel, the expansion addresses two important shortcomings that the Javits Center has had since opening in 1986. The first is meeting room capability to accommodate large conferences and keynotes as well as events that have a trade show component and a large conference attendee component. The second is a logistics support center that streamlines freight move-in and move-out.
“With the expansion, we will be able to meet the expected demand from domestic and international association organizations and trade show producers for meeting room space in New York,” Steel said.
Steel is excited about the new truck marshaling center, which he called the building’s secret sauce. The state-of-the-art, four-level facility has 27 loading docks and accommodates up to 200 semi-trucks at a time. Organizers will be able to control freight deliveries from their computers through a new software program that the Javits Center developed.
“Our goal is to maximize the number of vehicles we can bring off the road, minimizing our impact on the community, while also maximizing the value we can bring to our customers with a more efficient process,” Steel said.
The Javits Center took advantage of the rooftop of the new facility to provide standout venue experiences and heighten its sustainability initiatives.
“We have a spectacular four-season, 15,000-square-foot rooftop pavilion accommodating up to 1,500 guests as well as an open-air terrace,” Steel said. “At the rooftop farm, we’re going to grow vegetables that will go straight into our kitchens to provide a farm-to-table experience right in the middle of Manhattan.”
The farm is accessible to guests, as is the greenhouse, which accommodates gatherings such as high-end board meetings or meals for up to 25 people.
Steel expects the rooftop spaces to be a huge hit with organizers, planners and attendees.
“Being on a rooftop in the middle of Manhattan with a view across the Hudson River back to the Empire State Building is a unique experience in itself and very different from what attendees have had before in New York,” Steel said, adding that the more open space the center can offer, the better, particularly with regard to concerns about COVID.
From the new rooftop, guests are able to see the green roof on the center’s original building, which is home to 35 bird species, five bat species and five beehives, in addition to an expanding array of solar panels that are being installed over the center’s 100 conditioning units. Next year, solar panels will be installed on the roof of the expansion.
Improving technological capabilities was an essential part of the expansion, with all of the spaces outfitted with state-of-the-art electronics and other features.
“[We added] sound systems that we’ve never had before, digital signage and message boards, and things like a built-in theatrical truss to accommodate video, lighting and audio equipment in the new 54,000-square-foot special event space with 47-foot ceilings and views of the Hudson River,” Steel said.
Javits Center has also implemented a number of infectious disease prevention measures in the new and existing buildings, such as installing HEPA filtration systems, becoming GBAC STAR-certified by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council to maintain strict cleaning and disinfection protocols, and replacing water fountains with water bottle dispensers.
Growing Lineup of Events
Thanks to the expansion, the facility has put new meeting and conference business on the books for this year, 2022 and beyond, Steel said.
Those events include the investor-focused SALT Conference in September, which moved from Las Vegas, and three conferences in 2022: 75th Chartered Financial Accountants Annual Conference, American Society of Retina Specialists Conference and International Gynecologic Cancer Society Conference.
“The overarching goal with the expansion is to attract the kind of business that we have not previously been able to satisfy,” Steel said. “These events are evidence that we are succeeding. We want to continue to be the busiest convention center in the country and perhaps increase the number of days of occupancy by a few more points.”
Steel added that the reception from clients who have seen the expansion has been exceptional.
“When Anthony Scaramucci, who runs the SALT Conference, came for a tour, he wasn’t expecting too much for a New York convention center, but he left blown away,” Steel said. “In fact, he was live-streaming on his Twitter feed as he walked through the building, telling everyone how wonderful it was.”
Meanwhile, the entire area around the Javits Center is another boon for meeting and event organizers, as Midtown West continues to blossom with new developments.
Hudson Yards, one of the city’s newest neighborhoods, is a mixed-use development that includes the Edge observation deck, featuring a restaurant that is available for group bookings; the world’s first Equinox Hotel, a luxury-lifestyle resort experience in the heart of the city that features beautiful event offerings; The Shed arts and event venue; shopping; dining; public art; residences and offices.
A short walk from the Javits Center, Moynihan Train Hall opened in January in the historic James A. Farley Post Office building. The new station, which is served by Long Island Railroad and Amtrak, features 50 percent more concourse space and is a beautiful new expansion to the Penn Station complex across 8th Avenue. There are plans to extend The High Line elevated park to connect to the new train hall as part of the state’s Midtown West redevelopment.
“The Javits Center has historically been isolated to a degree without a lot of amenities around it,” the NYC & Co.’s Dixon said. “Now, it’s completely surrounded by world-class restaurants, first-class attractions, office buildings with headquarters for major companies like L’Oreal and CNN, the spectacular new Moynihan Train Hall and a lot of new hotel product, so we’ve created an amazing package for organizers and their attendees.”
Expanding Hotel Scene
In addition to the Javits Center expansion, New York City’s hotel landscape continues to evolve. With properties coming back online after closing due to the pandemic, the city currently has roughly 100,000 hotel rooms in active inventory and is expected to boost that count to 110,000 by the end of 2021 as more hotels reopen along with new projects. Numerous new properties with meeting and event space have opened or are scheduled to by the end of the year.
The stylish Pendry Manhattan West debuted near Hudson Yards in July with 164 guest rooms and suites, 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, a signature restaurant, a lounge and an open-air terrace bar.
The sleek, 489-room Arlo Midtown debuted in May between the Times Square, Garment District and Hudson Yards neighborhoods. The property has four food and beverage outlets by the award-winning Gerber Group and seven different spaces that accommodate meetings and events for up to 150 guests, including a glass-enclosed terrace and a rooftop bar boasting views of the west side, Midtown and the Hudson River.
Margaritaville Resort Times Square was unveiled in June as the brand’s first property in New York City, bringing its signature island vibe to the district. The property has 234 guest rooms and four food and beverage outlets that can host private events, including a two-story restaurant accommodating up to 470 people and a two-level rooftop bar accommodating up to 200 people.
The Graduate Roosevelt Island was unveiled in June on the Cornell Tech campus between Manhattan and Queens. Featuring a bright and colorful old school-meets-New Age energy, the 18-story property, the first hotel on the island, has 224 guest rooms, all of which have unobstructed views of the New York skyline, a restaurant and a rooftop bar that will open later this summer. The property caters to groups with 3,800 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.
The hip Ace Hotel Brooklyn opened in the borough’s Boerum Hill neighborhood in July. The property features 287 guest rooms, an expansive in-room art program, a lobby with several bars and an art gallery, and other food and beverage outlets. The hotel has 7,700 sq. ft. of meeting and event space spread throughout four venues, including its gallery, an ongoing showcase for local artists and makers, with featured exhibitions year-round.
Aman New York will occupy the 26-story Crown Building, an architectural icon on Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. The building, which opened in 1921 overlooking Central Park, is being restored to its original splendor while being infused with the spirit of the Aman brand. Opening this fall, the sophisticated property will feature 83 guest rooms and suites, 22 private residences, three restaurants, a garden terrace and bar with 7,000 sq. ft. of outdoor dining space and a three-story spa with an indoor swimming pool, sauna, steam rooms, hot and cold plunge pools and an outdoor terrace with a cabana, daybed and fireplace. The property will also feature meeting and event space.
Virgin Hotels will make its debut in New York City with the opening of a property in NoMad late this year. The fashionable hotel will feature 463 guest rooms, meeting and event venues, several food and beverage outlets and a rooftop pool and bar.
Fresh Options for Events
New York City has also been busy developing exciting new group-friendly event venues and attractions.
Set to be unveiled in September as the largest private event space in Manhattan, The Glasshouse will boast 75,000 sq. ft. of space in a remarkable waterfront setting. The venue will be able to accommodate up to 1,850 people and feature sweeping views of the Hudson River and downtown and midtown Manhattan. The flexible venue will be able to have configurations for small and large spaces, and it will also have two outdoor terraces, pre-function areas, a VIP Lounge, a 5,000-sq.-ft. chef’s kitchen and several green rooms. It will join the company’s first venue, Glasshouse Chelsea, which is 13 years old.
Summit One Vanderbilt will open this fall as the city’s newest observation deck and immersive experience. Set atop the striking new 1,401-foot One Vanderbilt tower, the innovative destination is designed to combine unparalleled vistas, curated multi-sensory features and cutting-edge technology for an experience spanning art, nature and design. It will be located at the highest vantage point in Midtown Manhattan, offering views of The Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building and Central Park, as well as fully transparent glass skyboxes sitting 1,063 feet above Madison Avenue. The venue will offer meeting and event spaces, and groups can also take advantage of the new Le Pavillon by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud. Located on the first floor of the skyscraper and featuring a lush natural environment and soaring ceilings, it has a private dining room for up to 28 guests and a semi-private dining table surrounded by 20-foot olive trees in the center of the garden for up to 14 guests, and it can accommodate up to 125 guests seated for a full restaurant buyout.
Cipriani South Street recently opened at the Battery Maritime Building on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. The event complex is located on the second floor and features a private arrival foyer, pre-function rooms including an outdoor terrace and the 9,000-sq.-ft. Great Hall, which can host up to 800 seated guests.
Meanwhile, groups can drop in on the set of one of the biggest hit TV shows of all-time. The Friends Experience recently opened in New York, and it can host events for up to 200 people and seated dinners for up to 50 people. The attraction features set recreations, original props and costumes, The Friends Experience Store and Central Perk, where guests can buy coffee and pastries.
Dixon said NYC & Co. is eager to continue telling the story of New York’s lively comeback.
“We have some very cool new options that are unique to New York in so many ways,” he said. “And with the return of Broadway shows this month plus all of the other great cultural offerings and our great dining scene coming back, particularly all of the outdoor dining opportunities, there is so much to explore and experience here.”