The Cobbler of Cooper Square

“Right now, I’m in labor—I’m going into labor,” declared Klaus Ortlieb, the effusive 50-year-old manager of the forthcoming Cooper Square Hotel, standing on a large Persian rug in the hotel lobby on Nov. 6.

He was speaking metaphorically, of course, about the final push to open the glassy, 23-story, $110 million Carlos Zapata-designed building, which towers over the Bowery at the corner of East Fifth Street.

The analogy might seem apropos except for the fact that, in this case, water-breaking would be a bad thing.

“We have two major inspections tomorrow,” Mr. Ortlieb noted—one of which was plumbing. “Then we have to go through the full building inspection,” he added.

If everything checked out, he was expecting to finally deliver the brand-spankin’-new 145-room boutique hotel by Dec. 1.

Albeit lacking full motor function and a few limbs.

The first- and second-floor bar and restaurant areas, along with the top seven floors of guest rooms, remained under construction last week.

The 3,200-square-foot, two-bedroom penthouse suite was in such a crude state—its walls scrawled with construction workers’ lewd idioms—that a hotel publicist forbid The Observer from taking photographs, despite some truly stunning views of Manhattan from its largely unobstructed, 21-story perch. (The hotel’s top two floors are mechanical.)

“You can literally watch the Freedom Tower go up,” noted Mr. Ortlieb, standing on the ledge of the penthouse balcony, pointing toward the Financial District in the distance.

It may take until February, he said, for the hotel and planned Table 8 restaurant to be fully operational

Yet, ever the optimist, Mr. Ortlieb described the long-delayed debut as a sign of constant improvement. “You know, the more delayed you get, the more the building gets finished,” he said as hammering clamored in the background.

He hoped to complete another two floors of rooms by the time the first guests arrive in two weeks or so.


THE COOPER SQUARE HOTEL’s nearly four-year-long (and counting) gestation period may not be the lengthiest in local lodging history—“the Mercer was a seven-year project,” said Mr. Ortlieb, who helped launch the luxurious Soho lodge in 1998—but it is certainly among the more tumultuous.

Even the hotel’s own publicity materials concede that the project has been “somewhat controversial.”

The Cobbler of Cooper Square