The L.A. hotel and restaurant operator will buy an office property at 444 Park Ave. South and convert it into a 190-room boutique hotel under his SLS brand. It's the first NY foray for the 36-year-old developer, whose financial struggles during the recession delayed projects in Miami Beach and Vegas. But Nazarian appears to be recovering nicely. With expansion plans around the world, he tells the WSJ, "We're really not an L.A.-centric company anymore."
The hotel market can turn against developers quickly in uncertain economic times. Mr. Nazarian also faces the challenge of standing out in the popular but increasingly crowded market for so-called lifestyle hotels, a category particularly overstocked in Manhattan. This segment caters to a trendy and often-young clientele drawn to the hotels' design and night life. Such hotels often include multiple restaurants and bars as well as dimly lighted lobbies adorned with art and thumping music. The category in New York includes several W hotels, Hyatt Hotels Corp.'s H +0.21% Andaz brand, Hampshire Hotels & Resorts' Dream hotels and several stylish boutiques operated by Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group LLC. There also are numerous independent properties and small chains, such as the Hotel Gansevoort, the NoMad Hotel and the Ace Hotel.
The NY Post reports that Nazarian is in discussions with celebrity chef José Andrés about the hotel's ground-floor restaurant.