Shaq’s shacking up at posh Boston digs

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal bounced his way into Boston today to meet with his new team, the Celtics. While he’s on the court, his reps are hitting the streets looking for a place tall enough to accommodate the 7′ 1″ athlete when he’s here.

The Celtics signed Shaquille O’Neal to help win another NBA title, but The Boston Herald is reporting one luxury address could also score big with Shaq’s arrival to the Bay State. Reports say Shaq’s reps are looking at the W Boston Hotel & Residences, which have suffered a bit of a lag in sales since opening.

The W could actually be a great fit for Shaq. It’s a new building with high-end security, valet service and a 24-hour concierge. The downside – it’s not very close to the TD Garden, where the Celts play during the season. Other hotel residences in the running include the Residences at the Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons and the Residences at the InterContinental.

This wouldn’t be the first time contracted sports stars have shacked up in posh Boston hotels. Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez called the Ritz-Carlton home during his time with the team. The four-bedroom condo is currently available for rent at $25,000 a month (in case you’re interested).

The Dealmakers’ Ballroom: Where the future is conceived

The seeds of economic recovery will be sewn in the travel industry. No, it will not be the hotels that pump new jobs out onto the market, and it certainly won’t be the airlines, which seem locked in perpetual battle against any positive influence the economy can have on them. Rather, the future will come from inside the hotels – specifically their lobbies. Historically, this venue has been the den of entrepreneurs with high hopes, small starts and an opportunity to pitch their wares. When lobby action heats up, you can forget about the unemployment rate or the value of the dollar against the euro – the economy will begin to come back.

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent most of the past decade not paying too much attention to hotel lobbies and the people in them … you know, like every other traveler does. Lobbies constituted a space between the present and the goal, whether you were entering the hotel or leaving it. To me, they were nothing more than a space to be traversed. My perspective changed this year, and I haven’t been able to get out of my head that every time I walk to my guestroom, I might be passing my next boss.

Hotel lobbies are an obvious choice for business professionals and startup jockeys. They tend to be large, have plenty of seating and afford a considerable degree of anonymity. People come and go all the time, and they generally mind their own business. Even the hotel staff will leave you alone, as long as you stay as unnoticeable as possible and don’t disrupt the guests (it also doesn’t hurt to buy a drink at the bar every now and then). The confluence of these factors means that the entrepreneur can flip open his laptop and walk a potential client or investor through his hopes and dreams, all crisply and clearly detailed in a PowerPoint presentation.I have been to my share of hotel lobbies. My most recent experience came only a few weeks ago, at the Union Square W Hotel. A friend of mine (no names, it’s still early in the proces), invited me to discuss with her and her partner a new business venture they were exploring. On the corner of E 17th St. and Park Avenue South, I dropped my cigar to the street and nudged it softly with my toe through the sewer grate underfoot. With that one fluid motion, my mind raced back to Boston, almost a decade earlier.

The carnage from the collapse of the dotcom economy was still visible back then. Two years after the NASDAQ took its initial plunge and a year after Enron hit the skids, the tech industry up there was in disarray. Networking events held by the Massachusetts eCommerce Association had become job-hunting dens, populated only with buyers – there were no sellers to be found. Of course, entrepreneurship is born of economic woe, as bright minds unable to find a paycheck from someone else are forced to turn to the dreams they’ve nurtured quietly for years – decades, even.

It was against this backdrop that I let my cigar butt fall to the ground where Dartmouth, St. James and Huntington converge and pushed through the revolving doors to the Westin Copley Place Hotel. I met a familiar face in the lobby at the top o f the escalator. No names, of course, even this far down the road – but, he was tall, a tad gaunt and had the obvious look of the academic he had once been. Doc, I’ll call him, had developed an unusual and interesting bit of software – the kind of thing that would have mattered only to a relatively small community of people with deep pockets – that he was trying to peddle in a market that didn’t favor anything with a price tag.

I joined Doc on the couch in the Westin lobby, which was buzzing with the activity of tourists and locals milling around the adjacent Grettacole salon and spa, and he began to discuss his appreciation for hotel lobbies. They offered plenty of space at the right price, and the comings and goings of people who aren’t permanent provided a sufficient screen behind which to hide from employees. He’d held meetings in countless lobbies, he explained, and had no plans to abandon the practice.

I was in no position to criticize. Having just started a consulting firm of my own, I’d done the same thing on a few occasions. My partners and I routinely met in public spaces, including the Amtrak/commuter rail station on Route 128, but none compared to hotel lobbies, which were closer to home, far more comfortable and within stumbling distance of an endless list of restaurants and bars. If the conversation went well in a hotel lobby, you could always go celebrate with a drink afterward.

Doc and I used the same hotel lobby regularly for more than a year, sometimes to meet with each other, and often to pursue our own separate agendas. I ran into other entrepreneurs there, as well. So, I wasn’t surprised when I was summoned to the W at Union Square this year – twice (by two different entrepreneurs).

When I strode into the lobby this year, in the comfortable position of being pitched rather than doing the pitching, I took a look around. The couches weren’t packed, but you certainly wouldn’t get one of your own if you wanted to sit for a moment. There were individuals working alone, fixated on computer screens and scribbling on notepads. I also saw a few groups, huddled around glowing screens, looking over each other’s shoulders and whispering ideas. They could have been business travelers and guests of the hotel, putting their heads together for a quick strategy session before dashing off to see a client, but I sensed otherwise. Memories don’t fade all that easily.

Finally, I saw a hand wave and quickly made my way to the meeting I was about to attend. In a strange way, it felt like home. Within seconds, I was tete-a-tete-a-tete with two people ready to change the world. I felt 30 pounds lighter, nine years younger and almost like I had a full head of hair again.

If you feel down about the current state of our economy, stroll through a big city’s hotel lobby. It might be hard to feel better, but you can be sure a few people in there are working on the cure for what ails you.

This is a week-long series from the writer of White Collar Travel about the role hotels will play not only in the recovery of our economy, but in giving an early home to the businesses that will define tomorrow.

W Boston Hotel owner faces financial woes; files for bankruptcy

The hotel has only been open a few months, but developers of the upscale W Boston Hotel and Residences are already facing financial problems. The owners filed for bankruptcy this week – a severe blow to the recently revitalized theater district area where the 28-story W Boston stood ground.

The W Boston was a welcome addition to Boston’s downtown theater district, which had been under construction for years working on the restructuring of worn facades and dilapidated buildings. The sheer glass exterior of the W Boston added a light to the darkening theater district streets giving Bostonians a reason to venture back to their old stomping grounds, which once hosted some of the best night life events and late-night clubs in the city. While the lights still shine bright on the theater marquees, there’s a dim shadow cast on the future of the W Boston.

According to documents filed in US Bankruptcy Court in Boston by SW Boston Hotel Venture LLC, a subsidiary of Sawyer Enterprises, the owners list liabilities of $100 million to $500 million.

The Boston Globe
reported that several months ago, in an effort to help the ailing hotel group complete the project, the City of Boston provided a $10.5 million loan to the developer, claiming it would take another $234 million to finish the project. However, troubles began way before the opening.

The high-end touches and amenities added to the residences and hotel rooms were purchased on the assumption that people would the price for the W brand. Unfortunately, not everyone bought into the trendsetting digs.

As of the filing, the W Boston Residences are only 10 percent sold. The Globe reports the condominiums have sold for as much as $1.9 million for a three-bedroom and $345,000 for a studio. According to the W Boston website, hotel rooms average around $300 a night, depending on the day of the week.

Daily Pampering: Mother’s Day babymoons for moms-to-be

Baby Me
Daily Pampering is important for all of us, but if you happen to have a pregnant friend or significant other, this Mother’s Day is a special day for her. Spoil her (and yourself) with the W Hotels‘ Baby Me package.

“Babymoons” are last-ditch-no-kids vacations for parents-to-be. W has tailored the Baby Me package to cater directly to these women and couples just in time for Mother’s Day. The package includes:

  • A Wonderful Room at any participating W Hotels location (USA)
  • A copy of Bump it Up, Amyhttp://beta.blogsmith.aol.com/content/posts/create/13/ Tara Koch’s pregnancy style bible for the chic mommy-to-be
  • A stylish cotton ‘Whoops’ Onesie to keep baby cozy once he/she arrives
  • A pair of adorable Metallic Baby Mocs from W Hotels The Store to keep little tootsies toasty
  • Three items from the “Womb Service” menu, sure to satisfy any sweet and salty craving

Prices for the Baby Me babymoon package vary by city (New York prices start at $319) — and if you really want to spoil a mom-to-be, be sure and add on a Great Expectations massage at the hotel’s spa.

If you happen to be in New York, W New York has a Mother’s Day breakfast designed just for moms-to-be with a preset Womb Service Breakfast menu. The price is $45 per person, there’s a non-alcoholic sparkling cocktail for mama, and the breakfast includes a I W MOM chocolate and “Whoops” Onesie as gifts.

Mother’s Day is May 9, which is in less than two weeks. You’re welcome.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

W Hotels drops two landmark New York properties; Wyndham’s Fashion 26 enters NYC


New York revealed its newest fashion accessory today: Wyndham Fashion 26 hotel, a luxury hotel in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. Following a few months of delays in opening the trendy hotel, Fashion 26 finally greeted guests into the new art-and-style space.

The hotel is located across the street from the famous Fashion Institute of Technology, and set in one of New York’s trendiest districts. The hotel’s own accessories are created from fashion favorites including cutting room tables and camera lights, and the hallways will host a rotating art program, including some pieces from local New Yorkers and students at FIT. According to a press release from Wyndham, the hotel will feature luxury amenities including Frette linens, free wireless Internet and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries.

Fashion comes at a cost, though: rooms are currently priced starting at $299/night.

Meanwhile, Starwood’s W Brand is dropping two of its landmark New York hotels — The Court and The Tuscany. In a statement on Starwood’s website:

W New York – The Court and W New York – The Tuscany will be leaving the Starwood system on April 14, 2010 at 11:59 PM. Reservations for dates on or after April 14, 2010, at 11:59 PM will not be eligible for Starwood Preferred Guest membership benefits, award redemption or accrual.

According to HotelChatter.com, Starwood signed an agreement to sell W New York – The Court and W New York – The Tuscany to the St. Giles Hotel. The hotel’s new owner has agreed to honor all local negotiated rates previously signed by W The Court and W The Tuscany for confirmed reservations. For further information on St. Giles Hotels, please call 1-888-406-8588 or visit www.StGilesNewYork.com.

W Hotels currently has four hotels in New York City and is planning on opening the W New York – Downtown, later this summer.