by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | August 11, 2010

Rendering of the Hyatt New Orleans lobby


Michael Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, talks fast. Really fast. And the excitement in his voice when he talks about the property and its long-awaited reopening is absolutely contagious.

On Aug. 18, the 34-year-old hotel, which has been shut since sustaining severe damage from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, will hold an official groundbreaking ceremony to kick off a $275 million redevelopment project that took four years and three independent feasibility studies to orchestrate. And when the 1,193-room property finally reopens its doors in fall 2011, says Smith, not only will it have a sleek contemporary look and feature all the requisite bells and whistles, it also will solidly anchor the nearby Louisiana Superdome and the $3 billion sports entertainment zone and medical district being developed by New Orleans. "Anybody who thinks this is a renovation is going to be surprised," says Smith. "This is not going to be the same hotel when it reopens. We are going to be a completely self-contained convention hotel, which means we will not have to depend on the convention center for meeting business."

Rendering of the Hyatt New Orleans atrium barAmong the property's new offerings are 200,000 square feet of high-tech meeting and event space, including two 25,000-square-foot ballrooms, 60 meeting rooms and 80,000 square feet of exhibit space, complete with six forklifts and a who's who of in-house vendors, including FedEx, Swank Audio Visuals and Freeman Decorating Services. Guests will chow down at two-full service restaurants (one of which will be operated by an as-yet-to-be-named celebrity chef), kick back at two bar lounges, stock up at a 24-hour convenience store or duck into a 2,000-square-foot coffee shop to refuel. For more serious purposes, they will head to the fourth-floor business concierge level, which will feature boardrooms, breakout rooms and dedicated technology staff.

By far the signature piece of the born-again Hyatt Regency New Orleans will be its five oversized meeting-planner suites that will come fully loaded with creature comforts such as sofas, refrigerators, spacious workspaces and TiVos that can be preloaded with personal viewing requests. "Sometimes planners are on-site seven to 10 days. That's a long time to live out of suitcase," notes Smith. "These suites are going to be their slice of home. I'll even personally load those TiVos with the shows they don't want to miss while on the road."