New York’s Plaza Hotel reopens after facelift

Two years after shutting its gilded doors for a $US400 million renovation, Manhattan’s famed Plaza Hotel began welcoming back guests on Friday.

“The Plaza is back,” Shane Krige, the hotel’s general manager, said as he cut a giant red ribbon that spanned the entrance near the southeast corner of Central Park.

“The legend is definitely going to continue.”

The hotel’s grandeur and attentive service inspired writers ranging from Kay Thompson, author of the Eloise stories, to Neil Simon, who wrote Broadway play and hit film Plaza Suite.

While hotel guests began checking into the 282 guest rooms, most of which were booked for opening night, much of the storied hotel has been converted to luxury condominiums.

Officials said all but one of 181 units had been sold. They refused to confirm selling prices.

Guest rooms, which start at an average $US1,000 a night, feature 24-karat gold-plated bathroom fixtures, flat screen televisions, electronic personal concierges, crystal chandeliers and gold gilt headboards and mirrors in keeping with the Plaza’s traditional Louis XV style.

White-gloved butlers are stationed on every floor.

The Plaza’s top-priced Royal Suite goes for a cool $US20,000, a far cry from the $US2.50 per night the hotel charged when it opened in 1907.

The roof restoration alone cost $US30 million, as the owners sought out the original Italian manufacturer of its famous green tiles.

Another major undertaking was restoring the Palm Court restaurant’s laylight, a coloured glass ceiling lit from above with changing hues of rose and violet.

It had been plastered over since the 1940s, when Conrad Hilton owned the Plaza, and cost more than $US2 million to repair.

The Plaza, co-owned by the Elad Group and the Saudi-based Kingdom Holding Co and managed by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, will have a formal reopening on May 10.

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