Destination: LES – Bracing For a Hotel Building Boom

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the November issue of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

Along upper Orchard Street one sparkling fall afternoon last month, young shoppers strolled in stilettos, popping in and out of the tiny, trendy boutiques that seem to multiply overnight lately. The perfume of fresh-cut flowers banked along a new corner bodega wafted down the block, overlaid with the pungent smell of roasted garlic from one of the pizza joints. Shopkeepers hawked leather goods on the sidewalk while workers hammered away inside Mi Casa Es Su Casa, yet another new restaurant opening soon. A woman with a suitcase asked directions to The Hotel on Rivington. A few blocks south, a group of tourists set out from the Tenement Museum for a walking tour of the way things used to be.

This eclectic mix — of the fashionable and the old-fashioned, the outgoing and the up-and-coming — forms a large part of the Lower East Side’s charm and draw. Combined with cheaper real estate prices than most of the rest of Manhattan and easy public transit access to  more tourist-centric parts of the city, the neighborhood’s character helps paint a portrait of a place that developers could envision new hotels succeeding.

Hotel Renderings: 163 & 180 Orchard, 185 Bowery

Issac & Stern Architects’ renderings of 180 Orchard St., a future Hotel Indigo.

After living with sidewalk sheds and scaffolding for almost five years, it can be hard to imagine how upper Orchard Street will look when two long-delayed hotel projects are completed. Luckily, the professionals over at Issac & Stern Architects have been hard at work providing us some renderings.

The larger of the two projects in the firm’s portfolio, a 26-story, 250-room Hotel Indigo on 200,000 square feet at 180 Orchard St. owned by Brack Capital, may quickly be nicknamed “Blue II,” if the drawings are true to color. The smaller project, a 10-story building with 33 suites planned on 17,000 square feet at 163 Orchard St., seems to lean green. Thanks to grandfathered zoning, both buildings will tower over their tenement neighbors.

Meanwhile, another Brack Capital project on the LES, a CitizenM Hotel planned at 185-191 Bowery, has also made a recent appearance on the Internet.