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Holy Hotel Price!!!

Thursday, 7 Dec 2006 | 3:20 PM ET

You don’t have to be Donald Trump to know that the New York City hotel market is a good investment, but it wasn’t until a visit to a stunning, new-ish property this week that I really and truly got the message.

I visited the Hudson Hotel on West 58th, a turn-of-the-millennium property from Ian Schrager and designer Philippe Starck. I’d wanted to try it for some time, but never had because it didn’t usually show up on our in-house list of GE-preferred hotels. Alas, Manhattan was booked, and when I called our travel service directly, they said all they had was the Hudson for $589.00 for the one night. I balked at the price, but was secretly quite pleased that my own company said I had to take it.

Arriving at the dark glass doors just after 10PM, I rode up the oddly mall-ish escalators to the main lobby, barely able to see the front desk. The techno music blaring from the bar quickly transported me to a dream-like scene from the movie “Lost in Translation.” I squinted to see my host and shouted my last name over the blaring beat.

Don’t get me wrong, I get what’s hip, and that lobby and bar were it. I may not be part of the after-11P scene anymore, but I grew up in Manhattan, and I remember and respect it well. For a moment I thought about grabbing a drink, but gave in to responsibilities, like my early live shot and my husband waiting at home for a phone call.

After proving my room key to two black-suited men, I was allowed into the elevators and taken up to an equally dark 7th floor. The hallway reminded me of the corridor of an aircraft carrier I once stayed on during the Kosovo crisis; I shouldn’t have been surprised by the room. It was much like the carrier’s cabins.

You may argue I’m no expert, but I’ve been in the news business for close to two decades, working nationally and abroad, so I’ve stayed in literally hundreds of hotels…from the Soviet-era “Intouristes” to the Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas. The room at the Hudson was baffling.

The entire cabin consisted of a floor-level bed with mirrored walls close on either side. There was a kitchen-sized TV in a slim corner cupboard and a metal bar at the doorway to hang my coat. The bathroom was all but inaccessible. The toilet was so jammed in that I literally had to sit side-saddle, and I’m not a big woman. I knocked my elbows on the sides of the stall shower and had to give up on a shampoo even before I started.

Dostoevsky once wrote that a person could live in a square yard of space, as long as that person was free; but he couldn’t possibly have meant at $589 a night???

I remember when the Hudson opened in 2000. It was touted as “Cheap Chic,” a “Hotel as Lifestyle”. Prices supposedly started at $99/night. Well I checked the website today and could find nothing listed under $279. The rates went all the way up to my “Corporate rack rate” of $589, and yet the room descriptions all seemed the same. I called reservations and asked for an explanation, and the friendly gentleman told me it was just “rate codes” and “tiers.”

Well, hats off to the Hudson. The room was certainly clean and modern, but I haven’t been so physically uncomfortable since a recent MRI. If that’s what sells today in the hospitality business (and sells out by the way-no reservations available for tonight), then no question, that’s an awfully good real estate sector in which to put some capital.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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