Friday, November 5, 2010

Lounging About With Fairmont

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts launched the first of what could be many tres-trendy Intersect media lounges the other night atop Nob Hill at the Fairmont San Francisco. I say 'could be' because - as regional vice president and general manger Thomas Klein told me at the opening reception - the San Francisco space is something of a trial balloon. If it works, Klein says, "Intersect will be rolled out across the brand.''

The Fairmont brand is spreading all over the world. The Toronto company is on a growth spurt that has prompted it to open plenty of new properties and tweak many old ones. Fairmont reopened the venerable Savoy Hotel, in London, last month after a massive renovation, and it has also renovated the vintage Peace Hotel (also formerly known as the Cathay) in Shanghai.

The San Francisco Fairmont, which opened in 1907 practically in the ashes of the cit's devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, was the first Fairmont. The high-ceilinged, marbled main lobby still has a rich traditional look and feel. That all changes when you descend one floor to Intersect.

Intersect is called a media lounge because it practically vibrates with big screen TVs - including one cool screen that shows a picture visible from both front and back. It also has a full bar and a screening room for videos and films, plus club-like mood lighting and low, designer-driven furniture, some of which is more fun to look at than to sit in.

Fairmont execs see Intersect as a way of modernizing this historic property while quietly containing the modernization within the beautifully classic "old bones' of the original structure. This it does very successfully. When you leave the lobby for Intersect, you're immediately in a different world. You can play video games in that world, certainly sip cocktails, enjoy little nibbles, order room service, take a meeting or just hang out. Initially, Fairmont execs say, the space - divided into three rooms - will be used chiefly for private events booked in advance, but the company is keen for customer feedback and the concept will probably evolve over time.

Fairmont partnered with well-known entertainment industry names to design and trick-out the space. Among them: Bang & Olufsen, Electronic Arts and EMI Music.

If you're in San Francisco and want to book Intersect, I'm told you do that through Catering.

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