Sounding the right note in the hotel biz

That’s the new Opus, Westchester, which occupies the space formerly held by The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester on Renaissance Square in downtown White Plains.

“Aspirational” is a good word to describe The Opus, Westchester, says co-owner Mark Weissman.

The new hotel, part of Marriott International’s luxe, boutique Autograph Collection, occupies the space formerly held by The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester on Renaissance Square in downtown White Plains. But it sees its mission as being different.

“The Ritz was a hotel for the top 1%,” Weissman says. “We think we can appeal to everyone.”

That includes visitors who are filling the hotel’s 108 guestrooms and 38 suites on weekends, says General Manager Elizabeth Andrews, ready to take advantage of the event space, heated indoor pool, rooftop restaurant Kanopi and Lobby Lounge as well.

Indeed, it’s no accident that the lounge features what looks like organ pipes as part of its décor, or that singing bowls, which sound different pitches when you strike them, will be part of the sound baths at The Spa, set to reopen with programming this fall. These accents underscore not only the Opus name — which can refer to a musical composition or any large-scale, artistic work — but a desire to strike the right chord with tourists, businesspeople and the greater community.

As White Plains Mayor Tom Roach noted at the May 26 ribbon cutting:  “Coming out of the Covid horror, this is the perfect time to open a hotel.”

New occupancy

Weissman — an independent investor and Harrison resident who is also a director of Tidhar, billed as the largest private real estate group in Israel — acquired The Ritz-Carlton in White Plains in 2015. Its co-owner is Yaniv Blumenfeld, founding managing partner of Glacier Global Partners,  commercial real estate investment firm in Manhattan. (The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC, actually a subsidiary of Marriott International, continues to operate the two luxury residences that flank The Opus.)

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Westchester, which opened in 2007, closed in March 2020 as the pandemic took off in this area. Last November, Weissman says, work began on renovations to reposition the property as one of the Autograph Collection’s independent, artistically themed hotels. While the outside of the building is relatively unchanged, the interiors have gotten a makeover courtesy of Manhattan’s Celano Design Studio. The reception area is now to the left of the entrance, where a succession of boutiques used to be — rather than straight ahead — shifting your focus to the Lobby Lounge, where visitors and guests can enjoy drinks and light bites amid the teal furnishings and splashes of color in the musically themed setting.

“The arts,” Weissman says, “are the spice of life.” The artistic motif continues in the guestrooms and suites upstairs where the traditionalism of The Ritz has been replaced with an earth-toned, mid-century modern look accented by abstract sculptures and paintings, Samuelson Furniture, Lusive Lighting and Loloey Carpets. (The spacious baths retain their marble floors and fixtures.)

Other renovations include those to the 10,000-square-foot, second-level event space, with its newly enhanced Gallery & Ballroom; and the pool, where swimmers are enveloped in new furnishings and palm-leaf wallpaper as well as glass that lets in views of the city. (The adjacent gym will be getting new equipment in the coming months.)

 But perhaps the biggest transformation is to the more intimately scaled Kanopi on the 42nd floor, with its small, colorful “Balloon Dogs,” after Jeff Koons’ work, decorating the tables. Like its predecessor, 42 The Restaurant, Kanopi is helmed by chef Anthony Gonçalves, mixing Portuguese and Hudson Valley cuisine, with an assist perhaps from a bust of Shakespeare in the kitchen.


Transitioning to a bright future

From Kanopi’s floor-to-ceiling, panoramic windows, you can see all the way to New York City, the Hudson Valley and the Long Island Sound, even on a cloudy day. But Weissman also gestures to the city below and the challenges facing it. Plans call for the neighboring White Plains Mall to be torn down and replaced with a large mixed-use space. The 865,000-square-foot Galleria — which has lost many of its stores, including anchor tenants Macy’s and Sears — will reportedly be transformed by owner Pacific Coast Retail Partners (PCRP) into a mixed-use environment that will be more accommodating to foot traffic and street-level services. 

Weissman is confident that The Opus will be a vital part of a city in transition. A good number of the employees have returned to the hotel, a spokesman says, and new team members have been added, led by GM Andrews, a Rye resident and former dancer and choreographer with more than 20 years in the hospitality industry. Overall, the hotel is managed by Crescent Hotels & Resorts, headquartered in Fairfax, Virginia.

Crescent’s is nevertheless, Weissman says, “a local team that understands the flavor of Westchester.”

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