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Cooper Square Hotel Owners Focusing on Aesthetics and Service

Klaus Ortlieb and Matthew Moss put the focus on architecture and service at the new Cooper Square Hotel.

By Anna Sekula October 29, 2008, 9:00 AM EDT

“Let me tell you a story,” begins Klaus Ortlieb, half of the management team behind the East Village’s new Cooper Square Hotel, which is set to open November 15. “When I was [working at] Claridge’s in London, there was a gentleman who drew up to the hotel with a horse trailer for lunch at the restaurant. And in the trailer was a $2 million filly. Really.” The story—which ends with Ortlieb walking the mare through Central London—wasn’t just a joke about his experiences in the business; it’s an example of the level of service the Cooper Square Hotel will have. To a point, anyway: “I’m not sure that I would walk a horse out into traffic here.”

His business partner, Matthew Moss—the quieter of the two—has a background in retail and residential real estate, but less experience in hospitality. “I needed to bring some hotel horsepower to the team,” Moss says of the partnership.

Their hotel is a gleaming 21-story glass and aluminum tower designed by Carlos Zapata. It offers a penthouse with a 1,600-square-foot wraparound terrace, as well as a private garden, two bars (one at lobby level and another on the second floor), a screening room, and a library with a working fireplace. But with just 145 guest rooms and suites, it’s a boutique property intended to feel more like a home, one with books from Housing Works and an extensive library of rare DVDs. What they don’t want is for the place to be another cookie-cutter experience that travelers might find elsewhere.

“A truly great hotel can’t be replicated or duplicated,” Moss says. “It’s got to be appropriate for its location, and the idea of creating 50 hotels of the same thing in 50 different cities, I think misses the point. You want to be where you’re going; you don’t want to be in some copy of something that’s somewhere else, somewhere else, and somewhere else.”

What’s certainly unique is the restaurant, helmed by chef Govind Armstrong. This is the first eatery in New York for Armstrong, who earned praise for his Table 8 restaurants in Los Angeles and Miami. “We made an educated effort to go outside of New York and bring new talent in,” Ortlieb says.

The area—at the nexus of SoHo, the East Village, the Lower East Side, and NoLIta—was another selling point. The Bowery has been undergoing a renaissance, with various buildings popping in the once scruffy area, including the New Museum and the stylish Bowery Hotel.

But how do they feel about the nickname given to the property by hotel bloggers—“Dubai on the Bowery”? Neither are fazed by it. “The building has unique architecture. There’s a statement there, and it might have been one of the first in this area to go up and to have modern, distinct architecture, but it’s not going to be the last,” responds Moss, citing forthcoming examples like the Thomas Mayne-designed academic building at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

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