It’s been a long wait for Jerusalem’s refurbished Waldorf Astoria Hotel, not counting the years the former Palace Hotel stood empty and was then used as a dilapidated government ministry, but it’s now completed and due to open on a limited basis this Passover.
“It’s a very exciting day,” said general manager Guy Klaiman, as the hotel prepared Thursday for a formal mezuzah-affixing ceremony. “This was a complicated preservation project that took a lot of time and money.”
It cost a reported $150 million — the owners are still tabulating the price tag, according to their public relations firm – to renovate and preserve the building, which has 226 rooms and the city’s largest ballroom. Carried out by architect Yehuda Feigin, the three-year project included extensive work to restore the building’s blend of Roman, Moorish and Arab architecture, down to the Art Deco iron banisters and metal work on the familiar arched windows that form part of the building’s facade.
There’s little that’s trendy or particularly Israeli about the space, although there are touch screen controls for each room, personal iPads will be offered to each guest as part of the hotel’s extensive 24-hour concierge service, and the beer on tap is from local brewery Alexander Beer.
Overall, it’s a rich look that exudes luxury, with marble floors, a retractable glass ceiling on the hotel atrium and crystal chandeliers that cost €250,000 each in the ballroom. Up in the larger-than-usual guestrooms — ranging from 37 square meters to 40 and 43 sq.m. in the deluxe, grand deluxe and terrace rooms — 500-thread-count sheets are the norm. The rooma are neutral-toned, with plush towels in the under-floor heated bathrooms, each with separate bathtubs, stall showers, and television screens embedded in the above-sink mirror.
Much of the interior design work was influenced by the personal tastes of the main investors, Canada’s Reichmann family, whose patriarch, investor Paul Reichmann, died at age 83 in October 2013. The family, some of whom live in ultra-Orthodox environs of Jerusalem’s Shaarei Hesed neighborhood, bought the property for $20 million, although the hotel is officially part of the Hilton chain of hotels, which manages the Waldorf brand.
The hotel’s adjacent residential building has 30 apartments, designated to be an extension of the luxury hotel, with access to the hotel’s personal concierges, spa and indoor lap pool, and in-house restaurants. When the hotel opens this spring, a French meat brasserie as well as an Italian restaurant with hand-painted ceiling frescoes will open as well; a tea lounge, patisserie, cigar bar and cocktail lounge — as well as the spa — will open later on.
As the latest hotel on Jerusalem’s King David Street, everyone wanted to work here, said Klaiman, who interviewed 5,000 people for 340 positions.
Apparently, he doesn’t have to worry about guests either, despite the $645 per night price tag.
Following Thursday’s mezuzah-affixing ceremony on the hotel’s front door, attended by Mayor Nir Barkat and the city’s chief rabbis, Klaiman received blessings from Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, as well as Jerusalem’s chief rabbis.
“The place is beautiful,” said Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, “and my hope for you is that you get lots of reservations.”