Hyde Park Residence Refurbishment: Interview with Astrid Bray
Astrid Bray, Managing Director at Hyde Park Residence chats to Lesley Reynolds, psd’s Hospitality Managing Director, about the refurbishment of the Hyde Park Residence.
Hyde Park Residence, 55 & 60 Park Lane, consists of 2 neighbouring buildings, facing Hyde Park in Mayfair. The buildings were purchased in 1987 and Hyde Park Residence formed to look after the two buildings for an overseas landlord. There are 156 apartments spread over the 2 buildings.
What do you see as the main differences in terms of customer expectation running luxury residences vs. running a luxury hotel?
The principal difference is that guests are making this much more their home from home and are looking for a more personal and discrete service. We go some distance to make sure that we understand their preferences and the special touches that they appreciate. We take time prior to their arrival to establish as much as can, and when they begin their stay we make an extra effort to see that they have settled in well, not only to the residence but also to the local neighbourhood.
You have just overseen a significant refurbishment programme of a number of your apartments. What were the main objectives you wanted to achieve in terms of hardware and soft furnishings to improve resident satisfaction?
We wanted to be as up to date as we could be in technology, but not so that the new apartments became difficult to operate. We focused on comfort, security and flexible living. We chose colours and schemes that emphasised our location next to Hyde Park and Park Lane, with a brief that the designs should be soft and relaxed.
Where we could we exclusively used ‘noble’ materials. Marble, beautiful wood veneers, and the very best quality metalwork. Our aim was to give longevity on style, materials and technology and to create an ‘easy living’ environment.
Overseeing any refurbishment programme has its challenges – what were the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome?
Managing a refurbishment whilst the business is still running around you is always challenging. In addition to the internal works, exteriors and M&E, we also had to fit in a programme to replace each of the 465 windows at 55 Park Lane. We had significant scaffolding up on the complex; access to which had to be carefully controlled so as not to intrude on residents in house, only at times that had been pre-arranged with them and noisy works carefully controlled within certain hours.
Do you have any advice you would share in terms of how to select the right professional partners to work with you on a refurbishment programme?
Contemplating an exercise of this scale requires the very best professionals that are available. Having selected our team through a tender process we also wanted to be sure that they had the financial capital and support to complete the project on budget and on time. We thought it essential to contact their referees and visit the projects of a same scale that they had recently completed, also to ask how their performance had been.
How do you evaluate the return on investment in an apartment environment?
The accountants are well qualified to answer this question in purely financial terms. I measure it by the commentary that we have received from our long term residents and the overall satisfaction that our resident survey produces. We also consider our return booking pace as a valuable tool in reflecting the popularity of what we have created, when comparing demand to previous years.
What would your top tip be for anyone who is about to embark on a refurbishment programme imminently?
Make sure that your contractors are financially sound and competent enough to deal with the demands when you only expect and accept the best. They need to be responsive and flexible enough to move quickly when the planned critical path doesn’t always materialise and compensate effectively to still deliver the project in the timescale and at the right cost.
What are the skill sets that you need from your team to undertake a refurbishment?
The key to any successful operation is the quality of the work produced by the team. Strong skills are required in budgetary control, a very good eye for detail and sound planning ability. It is essential to have someone senior on the team with a good design sense. Whilst the project is in progress front line colleagues who are empathetic to the resident’s needs must have a good listening ear to the issues that require action.
Managing Director, Hyde Park Residence
Nearly 30 years in the luxury hospitality business with a focus on sales, marketing and revenue (and a short stint in hospitality tech.), I took the GM route in 2012. I am really enjoying the refurbishment of Hyde Park Residence – and identifying the way forward for the business. My passion is people – team, guests and keeping up with the trends that change the way we interact and do our business.