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Taj Hotels Finishing a $100 Million Renovation at The Pierre on New York's Fifth Avenue,
Includes First US Location for Noted London Restaurant, Le Caprice

NEW YORK (March 11, 2009) - The Pierre, the iconic U.S. flagship of Taj Hotels on New York's Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, will re-open June 1 following a meticulous $100 million renovation to create new guestroom and bath interiors and to reconfigure first floor public areas to accommodate a new restaurant, Le Caprice at The Pierre, as well as 2 East, a new lobby lounge, and a graciously welcoming reception area. 

"We're extremely pleased with the results of our transformed residential-style interiors. The designs perfectly complement The Pierre's classic ambiance of quiet refinement and restore a sense of the property's original grandeur," said Heiko Kuenstle, General Manager, The Pierre. "We look forward to welcoming guests to our distinctive world of luxury. We're also excited to join forces with Le Caprice to introduce our new brasserie-style restaurant, Le Caprice at The Pierre, the first restaurant outside of London for this celebrated UK favorite." 

Guestrooms & Suites

All guestrooms and suites are being transformed to feature a warm, inviting residential-style décor with a feeling of quiet luxury. High ceilings and abundant natural light evoke a gracious, airy experience that enhances the new interiors. Color palettes, comprised of soft neutrals in pale ivory and taupe with tones of corals or blues, are contrasted with rich woods, tufted leather headboards and matching benches. Richly textured silk and brocade fabrics in elegant neutrals with tasteful accents of color adorn upholstery, pillows, draperies and bed throws. Hand-carved carpets ensure comfort and superb acoustical sound control. Fine arts consultant Mortimer Chatterjee, a former Christie's UK auction house executive turned Mumbai gallery owner known for recognizing emerging talent and who researched the extensive art collection at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower in preparation for its centenary in 2003, is hand-selecting artwork to complement the designs. 

All bedrooms will feature an interactive 40-inch flat screen television, a Bose Wave Studio with iPod docking station, WiFi, a working desk with built-in data and power outlets, comfortable upholstered chairs and large new sound-insulated, energy efficient windows with both blackout draperies and sheers. Closets will be outfitted with an electronic safe complete with power outlet that accommodates laptops. Access to all guestrooms will be via a new state-of-the-art electronic key system.

A significant portion of the renovation focused on updating all guest bathrooms. New Turkish marble-clad guest bathrooms will feature a glass-walled shower with oversized showerhead and steam-free makeup, shaving and wall mirrors. A majority of the baths have been enlarged to also incorporate a separate soaking tub and a flat panel television.

The living rooms in all guest suites will feature similarly inviting color palettes, comfortably elegant plush sofas and chairs, rich wood cabinetry, side tables and desks in the style of classic antiques, and the Bose Home Theatre system. The decorative fireplace is trimmed with original architectural details that have been restored to match the original crown ceiling moldings and window frames, and fitted with romantic white pillar candles. Some suites will accommodate up to six connecting bedrooms under just one key, ideal for families, corporate travelers and heads of state. Several new signature suite designs, including two suites with spacious landscaped terraces suitable for grand-scale entertaining, will be unveiled later in 2009.

Public Areas To Include Le Caprice at The Pierre, First US Location of Celebrated UK Restaurant

The new designs for the first floor respect the neo-Georgian character of The Pierre's grand public spaces, with decorative motifs, subtle embellishments and artful floor plans that perfectly accommodate sophisticated entertaining and hospitality for discerning guests. Upon completion, the gracious lobby level will feature a new restaurant, Le Caprice at The Pierre; 2 East, the new lobby lounge and bar, and a new central area for check-in and concierge assistance with greater guest access and floral designs from New York's L'Olivier Floral Atelier. Second floor banquet spaces, which were previously restored during the first phase of The Pierre's renovation program, have a dedicated entrance on 61st Street and remain open for meetings and events as guestroom and first floor renovations near completion.

The new restaurant, Le Caprice at The Pierre, is due to open in summer 2009. Le Caprice first opened in 1947 and was re-fashioned in 1981 with contemporary black and white décor, David Bailey photographs and a long bar to break the mold of established restaurants and offer flexibility in the menu, but with a high level of quality and service. Long-said to be one of the jewels of London's restaurant scene and a popular theatre haunt -- "For nearly two decades a table at Le Caprice has been the stock exchange for the arts," said AA Gill, Sunday Times restaurant critic -- it is now part of Richard Caring's Group, joining his other exclusive London dining establishments that include The Ivy, Annabel's, Daphne's, Wentworth Golf Club and Soho House. Caring and The Pierre have joined forces to recreate the celebrated brasserie-style restaurant within the hotel, which will feature timeless classics for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including its legendary Thai-baked sea bass and salmon fishcakes, in a convivial modern brasserie setting. 

About The Designers

James Park Associates conceptualized The Pierre's guestroom designs. The firm is noted for its portfolio of hospitality and luxury transportation projects that spans five continents and includes palaces, resorts, urban hotels and luxury cruise trains at the forefront of their respective industries. 

Champalimaud, formerly known as Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, created the designs for the new lobbies, including 2 East, as well as all function space on the second floor. The renowned interior design and interior architecture firm is celebrated for achieving highly individualized designs for its international clientele. Founded 27 years ago by Alexandra Champalimaud, the firm's award-winning portfolio encompasses many of the world's most successful hotels, restaurants and spas, as well as prestigious private residences and commercial spaces.

Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki, who can list Scott's, Wentworth Grill, J Sheekey Oyster Bar and The Club at The Ivy among his considerable achievements, has been brought in to design Le Caprice at The Pierre. 

The Pierre - History
Meet Pierre
Charles Pierre Casalasco was born into the hospitality industry. His father, Jacques Pierre, was owner of the redoubtable Hotel Anglais in Monte Carlo, where Charles worked as a pageboy, rubbing shoulders with the Russian grand dukes and European royalty who patronized his father's hotel.

When Pierre sailed into New York as a 25-year-old immigrant, he immediately made his mark as first assistant at the fashionable Sherry's. Here, he became acquainted with members of the influential Four Hundred set, including J.P. Morgan, the Astors and the Vanderbilts. Having served these powerful financial figures for nine years at Sherry's, Pierre then had the experience and connections to open Pierre's on the Park at 230 Park Avenue.

Pierre's Park Avenue restaurant was the place to be seen during the 1920's. The creme de le creme went to Pierre's to host debutante balls, society wedding receptions and ladies' lunches. But at the height of his success, Pierre sold out and entered a joint venture with a group of Wall Street financiers, most notably Otto Kahn, E.F. Hutton and Walter P. Chrysler.

The Construction
Their vision, the opulent 714-room Pierre Hotel, went up on a prime site at the corner of Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, commanding unrestricted views of Central Park. It cost $15 million to build and opened to great fanfare in October 1930. This new hotel was Georgian in design, an imposing structure of granite and cream-coloured brick, capped with a tall tower of gleaming copper, inspired by a French chateau. Pierre promised his hotel would be characterized by simplicity and refinement. The restaurants and bathrooms will have the ultimate touch required by select gatherings.

The Opening
On October 1, 1930, the hotel opened for business with 700 rooms and "an aim to create the atmosphere of a private club or residence instead of the average hotel atmosphere." Two weeks later, a gala dinner given by president and managing director, Charles Pierre Casalasco himself, marked the official grand opening. New Yorkers were impressed, and the top tier of society turned out to taste a Bill of Fare prepared by 85 year-old August Escoffier. This "father of French cuisine" served as guest chef at The Pierre in its early years.

The Pierre fast became the toast of New York, with a 1930s guide describing the hotel as "a monument of beauty and one of the most majestic structures in all New York. The Pierre caters to only those of refined tastes who can afford the best in the way of hotel luxury."

The Depression
Even lavish praise could not withstand the Great Depression of 1929, which caused Charles Pierre Casalasco to file for bankruptcy three years later.

As a result of a foreclosure, The Pierre was sold at a public auction on January 12, 1933, to the hotel's bondholder's committee who enacted a reorganization plan and kept on Charles Pierre Casalasco as managing director.

Shortly before his untimely death in 1934, Casalasco lamented the passing of an age: "It will take years to discover whether society will find itself again."

The Getty Years
A few years later, The Pierre took an upward turn. In 1938, Standard Oil tycoon John Paul Getty purchased the hotel for $2.5 million and appointed Frank Paget the general manager. In the summer of 1940, The Cafe Pierre opened and became the new hot spot among the social elite. And in 1950, Paget became the first hotelier to install radio and television sets in all the guest rooms.

In 1959, The Pierre became a cooperative, and 75 apartments were sold to individual private residents, including Elizabeth Taylor. The remaining guest rooms, restaurants, bars and reception rooms continued to be patronized by a devoted international clientele.

The Pierre Service Corporation
Real estate developer and civic leader Robert Dowling took an interest in the hotel, and in 1967, formed a new company with financiers Serge Semenko and David Baird to take over The Pierre from the Getty Oil Company. This new venture, called The Pierre Service Corporation, began a series of renovations including the refurbishment of guest rooms and public spaces, as well as the creation of murals in The Rotunda and Garden Foyer by artist Edward Melcarth.

The Next 30 years
Trust House Forte, an English company, assumed management of The Pierre from 1974-80. Afterwards, the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts took over in 1981 and began a $15-million refurbishment. The Pierre's rooms and bathrooms were renovated, the 61st Street lobby was expanded, and the Cafe Pierre was re-designed by Valerian Rybar. Ten years later, the lobby was redone in Italian marble, crown moldings and hand-woven carpets. The Garden Foyer was painted to look like Versailles. And the Regency Room was re-designed with panel walls, trompe l'oeil panels and gilded crown moldings.

For its 65th anniversary on October 1st, 1995, The Pierre received a new copper roof. A few years later, The Pierre unveiled its reappointed Grand Ballroom designed by Hughes Design Associates of McLean, Virginia. To this day, the Grand Ballroom remains the city's premier setting for elegant gala events and weddings.

Taj Hotels
For the 75th anniversary of The Pierre in 2005, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces was deemed the perfect choice to carry on the grand traditions of this New York landmark. The Pierre joins Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces distinguished properties throughout the world, including hotels from India to Mauritius to the UK and the Middle East.

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces has worked consistently to restore the property to its richly deserved iconic status. All 189 guest accommodations, including the 11 Grand Suites, have been upgraded, as well the corridors, public areas, restaurant and bar. The first phase of The Pierre renovation was completed in January 2007 by Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, revealing a beautifully restored Grand Ballroom, Cotillion Room and Garden foyer.

The Pierre stands today as a landmark hotel bestowing European grace and elegance - exactly what Charles Pierre had intended when he first created the hotel in the 1920s. Distinguished visitors from all over the world have wined and dined in the hotel's Grand Ballroom and Cotillion Room, among them Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl, French President Francois Mitterrand, Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Russia's President Boris Yeltsin. Even celebrities such as Mary Tyler Moore and Barbara Walters have held their wedding receptions at the hotel. And literary icons that have called The Pierre their refuge include Dashiell Hammett, Lilian Hellman, John Grisham, Stephen King, Tom Wolfe and Terrence McNally.

The Rotunda
It has often been said that The Rotunda is the signature room of The Pierre. The Rotunda's famous tromp l'oeil murals generate lots of lively commentary. Created in 1967 by American artist Edward Melcarth (1914 -1973), it was Mr. Melcarth's intention to bring the style and spirit of the Renaissance paintings into the present.

In the mural scenes, classic mythological figures like Neptune and Venus are intermingled with a woman with young children who resembles Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, as well as a man in a Nehru jacket, a clothing style popular in the 1960s. Other mythological figures, such as the River Gods and Minerva, share space with a young Adam & Eve (Adam was posed for by actor Erik Estrada in his younger days) and the painter's cat, Sasha. Several of the figures were modeled on people from New York society and some of the artist's patrons and benefactors. Melcarth also sculpted the male and female heads above the entrances to The Rotunda and the restaurant. 

About The Pierre
The Pierre, on Fifth Avenue overlooking New York's Central Park, first opened in 1930. The iconic hotel with 189 guestrooms, including 49 suites, was acquired by Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces as the luxury chain's U.S. flagship in 2005. The Pierre, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, will re-open June 1, 2009, following a $100 million renovations program. Rates begin at $895. To book reservations now, please call 1-800-743-7734 or visit

About Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
Established in 1903, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is one of Asia's largest and finest groups of hotels, comprising 64 hotels in 45 locations across India with an additional 15 international hotels in the Maldives, Malaysia, Australia, UK, USA, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Middle East. From world-renowned landmarks to modern business hotels, idyllic beach resorts to authentic Rajput palaces, each Taj hotel offers an unrivalled fusion of warm Indian hospitality, world-class service and modern luxury. The Taj, a symbol of Indian hospitality, has recently completed the centenary of its landmark hotel, The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is part of the Tata Group, India's premier business house. For more information on Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces:


Babs Harrison

Also See: Heiko Kuenstle Appointed General Manager of The Pierre New York, a Taj Hotel / July 2005
The Pierre, New York’s Landmark Hotel on Central Park and Fifth Avenue Will Close For a Year to Renovate 200 Guest Rooms; Taj Hotels Spending Up to $100 million on 77 Year Old Hotel / November 2007



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