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Home >  OPINIONThe ‘secret’ is out – Niccolo gives Murray new lease of life
The ‘secret’ is out – Niccolo gives Murray new lease of life
Marco Polo gives its Niccolo brand flagship status in Hong Kong, writes Martin Donovan

27 Sep 2016

After years of nothing much to be excited about other than a big brand opening in the New Territories or another boutique hotel being squeezed into a city neighbourhood, there is at last something exciting going on in Hong Kong’s hospitality industry.

Marco Polo Hotels went to some length in pulling off a princely piece of PR at a luncheon in Club Lusitano Hong Kong on September 21. In a room that offered views of the tarpaulin-clad Murray Building in the distance, the “secret” of the property’s future role was maintained until the boss of the owning company took to the stage. And there it was behind him on a black backdrop in white lettering: The Murray, A Niccolo Hotel, Hong Kong.

It shows something about rapid urban development when a 27-storey office tower built in 1969 is considered heritage. In the last few years Hong Kong has seen a movement against the tear-it-down-and-build-again approach that has been the hallmark of development in the city, often at the cost of heritage, particularly the colonial-era structures.

The Murray will be in a prime spot, in a neighbourhood swarming with bankers, lawyers, diplomats and other worthies who will be getting to know what will be the flagship for Marco Polo’s Niccolo brand. Property giants Wharf had outbid some 40 other developers in acquiring the site and building for HK$4.4 billion while the total cost of transforming it into a hotel is put at HK$7 billion. The hotel is expected to create 500 jobs. 

Stephen Ng (above), chairman and managing director of Wharf, which owns Marco Polo Hotels, likened The Murray’s present state to a rough diamond that is being cut with precision into what will be one of Hong Kong’s jewels by October 2017, when it is scheduled to open. 

Jennifer Cronin (right), president of Niccolo Hotels, told the gathering that The Murray represented a homecoming for the brand after the success of The Niccolo, Chengdu, which opened in April 2015. In the same week as the unveiling of The Murray project, the Niccolo Chengdu was won Best Business Hotel in Chengdu award in the 25th annual Business Traveller Asia Pacific Awards

Cronin, who launched the Niccolo brand, said new openings were in the pipeline for Chongqing, Changsha and Suzhou. 

Duncan Palmer (below), who describes The Murray project as the “Matterhorn of all hotels”, is overseeing the task of smoothing out the rough edges. The Langham, Savoy and Mandarin Oriental veteran has led teams in repositioning and establishing luxury properties, but scaling The Murray began at a base camp near enough to sea level in the south coast of England. It was there he spent an afternoon with Ron Phillips, the original architect of the building, who is delighted at the prospect that a project designed to house civil servants is getting a new lease of life as a hotel.

One of the challenges will be dealing with the tower’s unique window designs which, being in a conservation area, people will naturally want to see remain. However, the fixtures were meant to deflect sunlight and enhance the building’s energy saving, which reaped praise and awards in its day. Palmer and architects Fosters & Partners will be using all their ingenuity to strike a balance between sunlight and comfort, style and conservation.

Read more about The Murray launch here.

Tags :
Hong Kong   Marco Polo Hotels  

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