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Hotel Review: The World Center Hotel, first hotel to open at Ground Zero

When I told people where I was going and what I was doing, the same three words continued to make their way into different conversations: redevelop, rebuild and revitalization. I hadn't been to lower Manhattan since before Sept. 11, 2001, and quite frankly I had no plans to return. I remember where I was on 9/11, what I did and what happened next, and I wondered how, in this lifetime, we would survive the tragedy that just struck our great city. Two months later, I headed to Washington DC to report on the rebuilding efforts in our nation's capital. Ten years later, business came calling, and I was headed down to Ground Zero and the site of the World Trade Center.

What I saw was a hotel with a purpose, and an overwhelming a sense of pride in its employees -- they were proud to be open and thrilled to be part of the revitalization efforts of lower Manhattan
The purpose: A walkthrough of the World Center Hotel, which officially opens June 9 on Washington Street at the southern edge of the World Trade Center rectangle. The hotel has unrestricted views of the construction happening to rebuild, redevelop and revitalize lower Manhattan, including views of the Freedom Tower and National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Cheryl Palmer, corporate vice president of revenue and product development of the World Center Hotel, spoke on behalf of the hotel's opening.

"The overall response has been very positive for us. We are under a soft opening and since the opening we've been running very strong from an occupancy standpoint. We're about to open the View of the World Terrace Pub and that has also evoked a positive response," said Palmer. "There are some challenges with the construction in the area ... but the construction is a sign of the rebuilding and revitalization – it shows the progress that's been made. There are no surprises in terms of out location."

The hotel was under development pre-9/11 and the developers and management "stayed committed to the project through all the challenges," said Palmer.

I'll admit I was skeptical. I wasn't sure how I would feel seeing all of this for the first time, and having to take pictures to document it. I wasn't sure how travelers would feel about it, either. What I saw was a hotel with a purpose, and an overwhelming a sense of pride in its employees -- they were proud to be open and thrilled to be part of the revitalization efforts of lower Manhattan. So, I stepped inside the elevator and went on the tour of the first hotel to open at Ground Zero.

The Rooms

The rooms are perfectly simple - nothing fancy or frilly here, but a great place for business travelers. Light wood serves as the frame for desks, beds, tables and furniture, which brightens up the smallish space. Shades of blues and greens accent the room on the bedspreads and the sofas (sofas are only part of the hotel's suites). The standard size room comes with a desk equipped with plenty of outlets, in-room free Internet, coffee service, electronic temperature controls, and iPod docking stations.

For all the construction happening outside the bedroom windows, it was surprisingly quiet in the rooms (kudos to the architects and designers). The deluxe suites feature the same amenities as the standard rooms, but come with a sitting area that includes a pull-out sofa.

The hotel claims the deluxe rooms are big enough to hold meetings in - while there is a 'sitting area' in the deluxe rooms, I think the rooms are a little too small for a 'meeting.' However, the rooms are big enough for a private workout - an amenity the hotel offers. Request fitness equipment in the privacy of your room, and it will be delivered.

Your view will depend on your room. I toured the rooms with views of the construction, and was immediately taken aback by the realization of what I was seeing. You can (and will if you're in one of these rooms) lie on your bed and watch the rebuilding happen. It's surreal and overwhelming, and also somewhat inspiring.

The Bathrooms

All the rooms come with a standing shower; only a handful feature full tubs. Each bathroom is stocked with the basic amenities - shampoo, conditioner, soap and other toiletries. There's nothing fancy here, but it's functional.

The Amenities

In my opinion, the amenities are what sell this hotel. Guests enjoy:
  • Complimentary high-speed Internet access throughout the hotel
  • 24-hour concierge service
  • Instant registration and checkout thanks to computers in the lobby
  • Complimentary use of computers with Internet access and network printers in the lobby
  • Same day dry cleaning and laundry service
  • 24-hour menu delivery from select neighborhood restaurants
  • Fitness room and exercise equipment delivered to guestrooms, for those who don't want to workout at the hotel's fitness center
  • Complimentary chilled bottled water stations on every floor
Additionally, the hotel is LEED 'gold' certified for environmentally sustainable design, construction and operation. There are energy saving programs and electrical appliances throughout the hotel and renewable materials were used in the construction of the hotel.

The Club

The View of the World Terrace Club, located on the hotel's top floor, is bound to be a meeting mecca. Opening officially with the hotel on June 7, the terrace club features spectacular views of the memorials, the Manhattan skyline, the Hudson River and surprisingly, New Jersey.

"As a guest staying in the hotel you'll take advantage of all the amenities in the club," said Palmer. "We'll host events that overlook the river including wine and cheese parties, music events, and business social events."

It was surprising to take in the views, actually. Turn one way and you're looking down at the 9/11 construction site and the building of the Freedom Tower; turn another way, and you have breathtaking views of the water, complete with boats if you head up to the balcony at the right time of day.

The Bottom Line

The World Center Hotel is a great addition to the revitalization efforts of lower Manhattan. Its location to dozens of corporate headquarters makes it an easy choice for business travelers, and one can't beat the amenities that comes with the rooms. I realize that those staying at the hotel aren't New Yorkers and might not have the same emotional pull as I had to its location, however, I'm quite certain any guest will feel proud to stay among the rebuilding of one of New York's greatest neighborhoods.

Filed under: North America, United States, Hotels and Accommodations

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