The Hyatt Regency New Orleans has undergone a major renovation since Hurricane Katrina. // © 2011 Hyatt Regency New Orleans
The Hyatt Regency New Orleans is one of the city’s last major hotels to reopen its doors since 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. But the wait was well worth it.
The original hotel opened in 1976, with an entrance that faced the Louisiana Superdome in the heart of New Orleans. Over the years, other office buildings have sprung up around the Hyatt, plus a mall beneath its original entrance. The Hyatt reopened Oct. 19 following a $275 million redesign that included a new lobby and entrance, restaurant and bar and the adoption of the mall’s 100,000 square feet.
Now that the mall has been converted into meeting space and additional space has been added, the hotel features two impressive 25,000-square-feet ballrooms, a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 64 meeting and banquet rooms, 19 executive level meeting rooms and seven permanent boardrooms.
With a total of 200,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the Hyatt Regency New Orleans offers the most meeting space of any hotel in the city.
The Hyatt’s lobby now faces Loyola Avenue and what will soon be a streetcar line stretching from Canal Street and the French Quarter to uptown New Orleans. According to Lauren Cason, director of public relations and marketing communications, the elegant new lobby also allows for more breathing space, with numerous kiosks and seating areas.
“The redevelopment made it more open and more welcoming,” Cason said.
A long counter greets guests upon arrival, offering several front desk personnel to speed up the check-in process. In addition to the main entrance off Loyola, a side entrance accommodates tour buses, shuttles and vans.
Two stories of escalators bring guests to the center of the hotel, traveling alongside a wall of artful lighting design meant to resemble hurricane lamps. This feature signifies “lighting the way,” said Cason, like hurricane lamps of old for travelers.
At the hotel’s heart lies the 8 Block Kitchen & Bar, a restaurant-lounge combination named for the eight blocks of upper Bourbon Street, and the Vitascope Hall, named for the world’s first for-profit movie theater built in New Orleans in 1896. Whereas the 8 Block serves a New Orleans-style menu for breakfast and lunch with a bar for meeting and conversation, The Vitascope — with its 25 flat-screen televisions — has more of an upscale sports bar vibe. It features a menu ranging from sushi to homemade potato chips and a varied cocktail menu, with some drinks large enough for groups.
Opening soon will be the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant Borgne, serving New Orleans seafood with a Spanish influence in honor of Louisiana’s 18th-century Spanish legacy. The restaurant is the latest brainchild of James Beard award-winning Chef John Besh, and will be helmed by Chef Brian Landry, who most recently served as the consulting chef for Louisiana Seafood.
In addition, the hotel offers Pizza Consegna, a Neapolitan-style pizzeria that delivers to guestrooms and parts of the surrounding Central Business District, a Starbucks and Lagniappe Exchange, a 24-hour fresh market that offers a little bit of everything at reasonable prices.
The hotel’s signature atrium remains with two dramatic walls of glass — one fronting the Superdome and the other showcasing a river view. Open-air elevators still transport guests up the atrium, although now a high-tech system has replaced buttons; guests swipe their hotel keys on a keypad and are delivered to their floors.
Interior designers Looney & Associates gave the 1,193 guestrooms, 95 suites, five meeting planner suites and four presidential suites a hip new look, with modern furnishings, simple but elegant artwork and high-tech accessories. Although luxurious, bathrooms can be a bit on the small side, most likely because the upgrades were confined to original spaces. In some instances, wardrobes are placed in room entrances to free up more space in bedrooms.
Guest services are accessed through the high-definition, large-screen televisions, including ordering room service and choosing movies, which may be a bit cumbersome for those guests who are less tech-savvy. In terms of picture quality, however, the television experience is divine.
On the Hyatt’s top floor — the 32nd floor — is the hotel’s fitness center, where guests can work out overlooking the city. Between the main hotel and a small west wing is an outdoor swimming pool with an area for cabanas planned for the future.