The Gansevoort Hotel Group is growing. When President and CEO Michael Achenbaum first opened the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC hotel in 2004, he didn’t expect to be opening another Gansevoort, let alone two more—Gansevoort Turks + Caicos (opened in 2009) and Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC (opened in 2010)—with another, slated for Toronto, on the way. Gansevoort South in Miami is no longer part of Gansevoort Hotel Group’s portfolio.
“On opening our first hotel in the Meatpacking district, we did not have a global or even national expansion in mind,” Achenbaum said. “However, as our hotel became an internationally recognized destination, we have methodically developed our concept of a full-service ‘urban resort’ property that has redefined the hotel business. … There’s still a void in the product targeting the 25-55 age group that provides lifestyle accommodations with top guest services and branded amenities.”
In New York, the success of the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC signaled the revitalization of the city’s Meatpacking District. And the group’s most recently opened property, the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC, has also had success, achieving high occupancy rates since its soft opening in August 2010; occupancy was above 70 percent in October. Following these successes, Achenbaum and his team are eager to take the Gansevoort brand and lifestyle concept to the global stage.
As of press time, Achenbaum and his team were working to finalize plans for a new Gansevoort property to be located in the historic distillery district of downtown Toronto. Achenbaum said that the new Toronto hotel will have 100 rooms and will be a combination of “both a landmark building and a new build.”
The distillery district was chosen for its reputation as being an “eclectic neighborhood,” said Achenbaum, “in a city that is currently seeing a substantial amount of growth.”
It’s not the first time that Gansevoort has tried to open a property in Toronto. Back in 2008, the group had originally planned to open a property in Toronto by 2011, as well as additional hotels in Los Angeles and Chicago, but the company couldn’t secure appropriate financing following the collapse of the real estate market. So what makes now a better time for expansion?
“With some market recovery, we are now revamping our expansion plans to grow our brand,” Achenbaum said. “We have an extensive network of distressed debt and value buyers that are looking to partner with the brand that has a significant potential for asset repositioning and enhancement.”
Part of that strategy involves setting quantifiable goals. Achenbaum said that he hopes to open three new locations per year for a total of 15 hotels and resorts within the next five years. He and the group are seeking out “markets that are synergistic with the traveling needs of our current target customers.”
As the brand expands, Achenbaum said that the group wants to be asset light.
“Our goal is to leverage Gansevoort’s strong brand and management company capabilities to partner with real estate hospitality investors and hotel owners for ground-up development or renovation, as well as reflagging of existing properties,” he said. “While we can bring capital to select projects, we prefer to be a minority investor to support our alignment of interest with the owners.”
Just because the group is planning to grow its number of properties, however, doesn’t mean it will expand just for the sake of expansion.
“We aspire not to be the largest hotel brand with the most locations but to be most relevant to our customers in presence and product offering,” Achenbaum said.
Nor will Gansevoort open in locations that do not align with the brand’s message and lifestyle concept.
“We are targeting key international gateway cities and resort destinations where the model of branded lifestyle hotels and resorts appeals to international jetsetters,” Achenbaum said. “For urban targets, we look to establish a presence in business centers with a vibrant social life where we can appeal to both business and leisure travelers and local crowds.”
Cities where the group is considering setting up shop include Paris; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Istanbul, Turkey; Moscow; London; Los Angeles and Chicago.
Achenbaum said that he values the group’s partnerships to help execute the brand’s urban resort concept.
“We’ve learned that great partners are a key element to the experience and that’s why we’ve joined forces with the best in the industry—The ONE Group, exhale and Cutler, all at Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC, for example—all of whom cater to the same demographic and elevate the hotel experience,” Achenbaum said.