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The Closing Of The Plaza Hotel – A UK Perspective
The impending closure of the world famous Plaza Hotel in New York, has left lovers of classic hotels across the globe in a state of shock. However, while the Plaza seems doomed to become a shopping mall and condominium flats, classic hotels across the UK are enjoying something of a renaissance with an increasing amount of guests seeking solace in their historical charms as an alternative to the mass marketing culture of the corporate hotel chains.
Manhattan has always been one of the world’s great locations for finding innovative hotels. Since it opened in 1907, the Plaza Hotel has played host to the hoi polio of New York as well as notable foreign dignitaries and even The Beatles on their first tour of the USA. The hotel has also been the centrepiece for many famous movies including The Great Gatsby, Arthur and Al Pacino’s Oscar winning classic, Scent of a Woman.
However, the hotel isn’t just the playground of the rich and famous. Closely intertwined with the very fabric of New York City the hotel has traditionally been open to people from every walk of life imaginable. From high school proms to weddings and birthday celebrations the hotel holds special memories for thousands of people across the city and will always be synonymous with the world famous Central Park.
It is for these reasons that there was so much uproar when real estate conglomerate Elad Properties decided that the Plaza could no longer be financially viable as an 805 room luxury hotel. In a hastily brought together plan it was decided that the hotel would be converted into a shopping mall and condominiums. As a result the past few months has seen a barrage of "Save The Plaza" commercials depicting people who have special memories of the hotel. The website http://www.friendsoftheplaza.com has set up “Join the Fight” campaign page where visitors can sign a petition to help save the Plaza.
Perhaps largely due to this successful campaign an agreement was made on April 14th 2005 where 350 hotel rooms will still be preserved – although plans for the accommodation and mall will go ahead. To the outsider looking in from the UK it almost doesn’t seem possible that a historical landmark could be ripped down in the name of financial gain. However, it is a pattern repeated across America with classic hotels making way for big chains, shops and casinos.
In the UK it would appear the polar opposite with Classic Hotels becoming more popular than ever. One such example is the majestic Balmoral Hotel in the centre of Edinburgh. The hotel is quite simply “part of the furniture” in central Edinburgh within walking distance of the historic Old Town, Castle and famous Princess Street Gardens. As it is described on the website of accommodation and short break provider http://www.superbreak.com ; “many hotels claim to have Edinburgh's landmarks on their doorstep, few can say their doorstep is a landmark.”
To convert this Scottish hotel into a shopping centre would quite simply be ridiculous – an idea that would never been entertained. Other classic hotels across the UK are also enjoying going from strength to strength such as the famous Chester Grosvenor and Spa. Again situated in an area steeped in history the hotel combines classic service and architecture with all the modern amenities you would expect from a deluxe hotel. Again the notion of this beautiful building becoming a block of flats would be unthinkable.
While The Plaza in New York will survive to a certain extent, May 2005 saw it close to the public in its present state. This result, as the Friends of the Plaza put it; “it is a crime against history to destroy such an architecturally and socially significant piece of this great city”. It is a view that is shared amongst the American public but alas not by their corporate brethren...
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