Paul McGowan, owner of the Study at Yale, uses lots of adjectives to describe his new hotel on Chapel Street.
“It’s a bit European, a bit eclectic, a bit traditional, a bit contemporary,” he said while riding in the hotel’s elevator last week. “But it’s really about Yale, too.”
There is no doubt that McGowan is betting on Yale to bolster his business; indeed, it is no coincidence that the hotel opened just in time for Parents’ Weekend. With a two-night minimum stay and higher rates for the weekend, the Study is sold out tonight — despite its having been open just over a week.
But more than simply counting on Yale parents and alumni for patronage, McGowan also looked to the campus for design inspiration. His hotel is only the fifth in the New Haven downtown area, but it is without a doubt the most up-to-date. McGowan started with relatively little: The Study is a renovation of the old Colony hotel, a drab 1970s relic with only 86 rooms that he bought in 2006 for roughly $7 million and has spent the better part of two years renovating.
Other hotels, though, are catching on. Including the 124 rooms at the Study, New Haven proper has around 800 hotel rooms. Many of those will be renovated and many more will be added in the coming months as competition increases in a market that some say has long been complacent, according to some local hotel managers.
A bookish study
If the Study is any barometer, then there are many visitors to New Haven in search of seersucker bathrobes and a location just a (literal) stone’s throw from Pierson College.
Anthony Moir, the Study’s sales and marketing director, described an almost endless number of connections between the Study and Yale on a tour of the hotel for the News.
For starters, with the permission of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, the Study is known formally as the Study at Yale. This is also true of the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale and the Courtyard by Marriott at Yale. But many of the Study’s walls are also painted a shade of Yale blue; photographs in each room show the campus in various seasons; and students of the Yale School of Music produced music to be played over the lobby speaker system.
The best — and most expensive — rooms at the Study are those that face north, with large windows facing the intimate courtyards of Yale’s residential colleges. But even views to the south are tied to Yale, as variously colored glass panes evoke the campus’s playful stained glass designed by G. Owen Bonawit and others.
The new hotel is just down the street from the renovated Rudolph Hall, and across from the Yale School of Art’s Green Hall. Yet it is also a bookish hotel, with plush leather chairs and lamps that Moir described as “conducive to reading.”
With rates beginning at $279 a night and rising as high as $1,400 for a presidential suite, the Study might also be said to have highbrow prices. But Ginny Kozlowski, president and chief executive of the Greater New Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted in an interview that while the Study is certainly at the high end of New Haven hotels, rates in the region have been steadily rising over the last decade.
The Study’s main competition is the Omni, long a mainstay of Yale’s more moneyed visitors. Moir said the Omni, a 306-room facility that is almost indistinguishable from other Omni hotels around the country, “can’t really compete with us as far as the look and feel of the hotel.”
But Thomas Sullivan, the Omni’s general manager, said there is more to a hotel than the flat-screen televisions and iPod docking stations that the Study boasts.
“When the lights are turned out at night, every hotel room is basically the same,” he said. “So what it comes down to is service. The new competition is just going to help keep us sharp on our toes.”
Kozlowski added, however, that there is enough demand in New Haven to allow for both the Study and the Omni to succeed.
Other hoteliers said they are hoping to get in on the success, as well.
The Courtyard by Marriott will soon add 47 rooms to its current 160, and the New Haven Hotel on George Street is set to undergo a complete renovation that will add an indeterminate number of rooms, the hotels’ respective managers said. Centerplan Companies, which is developing a site at the intersection of College and Crown streets, has said its overall, mixed-use plans are in flux because of the economy, but it is proceeding with plans for a hotel on the site.
“New Haven is revitalizing,” Robert Rosenblatt, the New Haven Hotel’s general manager, said. “And travelers want to see that revitalization in their hotel rooms.”
Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, Yale’s associate vice president of New Haven and State Affairs, noted that Yale’s expansion contributes to the added demand for hotel rooms. With a new School of Management campus in the works, two new residential colleges set to add hundreds of students to Yale College and the Smilow Cancer Center already under construction, Yale will soon bring even more guests to New Haven hotels — even those who do not share the University’s name.
“It seems clear that the market will continue to grow in terms of visitors to campus,” Morand said. “This makes New Haven a pretty unique city, given the economic climate elsewhere.”
Sulivan, the general manager at the Omni, put Yale’s role as a magnet to New Haven more simply.
“Orlando has Disney,” he said. “New Haven has Yale.”