The Restoration and Greening of a Dowager Hotel

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Designed by Howard Greenly in 1904 in the Beaux Arts style, the striking 14 story exterior of the Prince George Hotel has a richly ornamented facade of limestone, terracotta and red brick featuring a prominent cornice and occupies a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Located on the then fashionable block on East 28th St between Madison and 5th Avenues, in its heyday, it was the place to be, possessing beautifully ornamented public areas such as the Ladies Tea Room, the Hunt Room and the Prince George Ballroom. One of the largest and most posh early 20th century hotels, it became one of the preeminent hotels in Manhattan, and was famous as the first hotel to have private bathrooms.

As the area became more commercial and not as fashionable combined with the decline of New York City and its hospitality industry in the 1970s, the aging hotel had trouble attracting the tourist trade. The city purchased it for the purpose of housing the homeless. It struggled until 1989 when it was shuttered.

The hotel got its second chance when it was purchased some 7 years later by Common Ground, an organization dedicated to developing and sustaining supportive and affordable housing for the chronically homeless in New York. Common Ground was able to do a basic rehabilitation of the hotel rooms to provide livable accommodations with 417 single-occupancy rooms but found that they were also the stewards of some of the finest historic interior public rooms in the city. Although outside their core mission, they ultimately decided to undertake the rehabilitation of some of these rooms.

Today, the Ballroom, Ladies Tea Room and the Hunt Room have been restored, breathing new life into this Grand Hotel and preserving an important piece of New York City architectural history. Restoration of the other rooms is either underway or anticipated.

The focus on energy conservation by the last 2 mayor administrations has provided the impetus to make the Hotel (and buildings in general) more “green” and thus save at least 10% of their energy costs. To that end, George Vonortas and Joe Marciano of Merritt & Harris’  Property Conditions Assessment Group performed a Green Property Needs Assessment. Now, not only is this 110-year-old hotel beautiful and providing a necessary social service, it is also energy efficient.


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