Gregory Peck in To Build a Boutique Hotel

What is your overall vision for this place? What kind of statement do you want to make?

Matt and I have sort of agreed that we’re going to refrain from talking about it until it’s ready.

There have been rumors that you’ve had a falling-out. Any truth to that?

Peck/Moss is still together and will be together through the opening of Cooper Square… I generally am very excited about doing hotels in many different cities in this country, just not the big international 24-hour cities. Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Scottsdale—in all these cities, I think, there are tremendous opportunities to do innovative hotels. In particular, I think, mid-priced, well-located, well-designed properties could have an impact and be very successful.

With boutiques like Cooper Square, uniqueness is the aim. But with so many people building in that vein now, is it harder to make something pop, to make it seem unique?

Like a good movie, like a good restaurant, to make a great product requires skills. The talented will succeed in doing that. I don’t think everybody can. I believe guys like Ian and André would have liked to do many, many more hotels, and they could have except that for them to achieve the level of execution that I know they demand requires a lot of their personal time. For guys like me, accessing institutional capital is important. Years ago, it was more difficult to get guys on Wall Street to accept the [boutique] industry.

It’s sexier now?

I don’t know if ‘sexier’ is the right word. It’s more accepted as a mainstream aspect of the hotel business as opposed to this little rogue sector where a few guys are chasing deals. A challenge has always been convincing people that the food and beverage aspect of what we do is a normal part of it. Certain institutional lenders and investors, they see a lot of projected cash flow coming from food and beverage, they get a little scared away by it.

Just because of the risk involved?

It’s perceived as being a different business. From my point of view, it’s all one business. They live together, feed off each other.

Obviously, there’s been a lot of buzz about this project. In recent weeks, there have been public protests over the hotel’s liquor licenses. As I understand it, the hotel will have at least three bars-lounges, a restaurant and a live music component—so you’re talking, what, three to five licenses?

Again, I don’t want to get into specifics about the hotel program.

As a New York guy, does it surprise you how strong the anti-bar-sprawl sentiment is?

As a general statement, I will say I think people, in New York and other places, resist change. My point of view on development, in general, cities should not be museums; they’re evolving environments and so they’re going to change over time. The buildings will change. Culturally, sometimes the change will be welcome and sometimes it won’t be exactly what people want.