August 11 2014 | Latest NewsBy Katherine Sayre, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Take a stroll down Poydras Street, and you might notice something is missing from the skyline.
The distinctive red "W" atop the shiny W Hotel is cloaked in a white tarp, and the owners say it won't be returning.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is converting the 23-story hotel to a Le MÃ©ridien-branded property with a $29 million renovation.
For now, the 410-room hotel has been anointed with a more generic name, Hotel New Orleans Downtown.
General manager John Thompson likened the difference in brands to cities. The W Hotel tends toward an edgier, more modern New York feel, while Le MÃ©ridien is inspired by mid-century modern style in Paris with a focus on the arts.
"When Le MÃ©ridien talks about its affinity to culture, cuisine and the arts, what better destination could there be for food and the arts?" Thompson said. "It's a perfect fit for what's happening in the city."
The tower was built in 1984 at 333 Poydras St., and Starwood purchased the property in 1999.
In the renovation, everything is being removed from the rooms, which will be revamped from scratch, Thompson said. The hotel will add 1,600 square feet of meeting space for a total of 15,000 square feet of meeting space.
The new hotel will be finished in early December, he said. Ten floors are already finished.
Most of the New Orleans area's hotel rooms - 22,000 of the region's 38,000 rooms -- are clustered within one mile of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Thompson said the hotel will also build on its proximity to the nearby arts scene within the Warehouse District.
Starwood bought the Le Meridien brand in 2005 and now operates 100 locations in 40 countries worldwide.