The Hyatt Regency: Atlanta's, and the World's, First Modern Atrium Hotel

The Hyatt Regency, architect John Portman's first atrium hotel, is located in downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street. The hotel is within walking distance of Centennial Olympic Park, the Georgia Dome, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, Philips Arena and CNN Center. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station one block away. The hotel is easily reached from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector.

In 1961, John Portman, a real estate developer as well as an architect, created the Merchandise Mart in downtown Atlanta. It was so successful that, by the mid-1960s, he felt the city needed a new downtown hotel to accommodate all of the out-of-town buyers at the Mart. The hotel he designed, a 23-story concrete block hollowed out in the middle to create a 21-story atrium, was so radical in its concept that he could not find a chain with which to affiliate. Finally, Hyatt, a west-coast motor lodge operator, took a chance on the building, creating its first full-service hotel. The result was a hotel that, at 40-plus years of age, still has the power to awe guests as well as draw top conventions to the city.

When it opened in 1967, the Hyatt Regency was more than a hotel - it was a tourist attraction. People lined up to ride its glass elevators to the top of the hotel, which was capped with a rotating restaurant inside a blue glass bubble. The space-age bubble, lit from within, glowed over the Atlanta skyline at night "like a monument to the future,'' said the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. An Atlanta native recalls in the AJC, "In high school, we all went down and rode the elevators. And you got dressed up. It was a big thing to do.''

Today, the rotating restaurant is closed, but the Hyatt Regency remains an integral part of the downtown convention trade. It underwent a 22-million-dollar renovation in time for its 40th anniversary in 2007. Successful Meetings, a trade magazine of the convention industry, sponsors the Pinnacle Awards, which recognize excellence in convention hotels. In describing the Hyatt Regency's award in 2008 - the 16th time the property had won a Pinnacle - the magazine said, "The property's legacy for innovation-in design, service, and meetings facilities-continues as the hotel consistently upgrades its group offerings.'' In addition to upgrading its meeting facilities, guestrooms and public spaces were redesigned to give the hotel a fresh, contemporary feel.

The Hyatt's 1,260 rooms offer the signature Hyatt Grand Bed, high-speed wireless Internet access, a large work desk, bathrobes and upgraded baths. Rooms range from the small, studio-style Radius room to large suites with separate seating areas. A club level is available with a dedicated concierge, complimentary food and drink in the lounge and upgraded amenities. Dining options in the hotel include an upscale, bistro-style grill, a breakfast and lunch buffet, and two bars. A 5,000-square-foot, fully equipped fitness center is open 24 hours a day, and an outdoor pool is open seasonally. A staffed business center offering printing, desktop publishing and shipping is available six days a week.

The massive meeting and convention facilities at the Hyatt, a total of 180,000 square feet, include the largest ballroom in the state at 29,000 square feet, which accommodates up to 2,200 guests banquet-style; 58,000 square feet of exhibit space, which accommodates up to 253 8' x 10' booths, and a total of 52 meeting rooms, including 14 Executive Suites and a 19-room conference center. Onsite planners and technology experts are available to assist with meetings, and the hotel provides full catering services.

Internet reviews of the Hyatt Regency are largely positive, particularly since the renovation. Everyone, of course, is amazed by the atrium, and most guests like the new d,cor, although some find the Radius studio rooms too small. The staff is "hospitable and courteous,'' and the fitness center is "the best I've ever seen in a hotel.'' Most reviewers love the location near Atlanta's downtown attractions, although some are not comfortable in this part of town. One major complaint is prices - of valet parking, food, refreshments and Internet access. Another complaint is noise - "Do not stay here if you need quiet!'' - as guests in some parts of the hotel can hear both lobby and street noise. All in all, the Hyatt Regency seems to be holding its own after forty years of service under the blue bubble.

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