Gregory Iannacone joined the ROTC in college, and by 22, he was an air defense officer for the Army, leading a group of 30 men and learning about responsibility, leadership, and communication.
It’s those traits that helped him when he transitioned back to the civilian world, interacting with executives and using his engineering background to establish a strong career in construction and development—one that has led him to his current role as a director in the hotel development team for New York-based Lightstone Group.
Iannacone started his construction career with highway improvement projects, then moved to New York City, where he got his first taste of building construction. He moved to the owner-operator side with Faithful+Gould, a project management and cost consultancy firm that introduced him to the hospitality industry.
His first foray into the hospitality world started in 2007 at the Peninsula New York on 5th Avenue and 55th Street. He helped renovate the top three stories of the hotel, which included the property’s luxury spa, pool, gym, and rooftop bar.
“Hospitality is a very demanding market to work within,” Iannacone says, “especially on the higher-end side, when you’re dealing with five-star properties.” He adds that the New York market, on top of that, adds a rigorous challenge on its own.
While at Faithful+Gould, Iannacone was also tasked by Marriott with the repositioning of the old Metropolitan Life Clock Tower from a commercial office space to a hospitality asset. Originally constructed in 1909 in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, the 50-story, 700-foot-high office tower is now home to the New York EDITION Hotel.
“We started on the project in early 2012, and it was unique because to reposition it and make it code compliant, the building required significant structural realignments and improvements,” he explains. “The existing building had one stair tower but needed two, and it literally took a year’s worth of a structural program where the building was gutted and floor plates demoed out to facilitate the hospitality fit-out.”
Because it was a steel structure with cinder-ash concrete floors, surveyors needed to go in to ensure what could be demoed safely and where floorplates could be realigned to set up for hotel rooms.
“Hospitality is a very demanding market to work within, especially on the higher-end side, when you’re dealing with five-star properties.”
“We also had to improve both of the property’s elevators banks,” Iannacone recounts. One bank of three cars went through a modernization program and the other midrise bank was completely demoed, and two new cars were installed into a new full-rise elevator bank.”
Overall, he doesn’t think he will ever again work on a project as complicated in terms of realigning a building’s core before performing a fit-out, but he feels the project gave him a lot of different experiences and ideas for future projects.
For instance, when working on the Moxy East Village—a recent 286-key micro hotel concept situated just south of Union Square on East 11th Street, which opened in the fall of 2019 after two years of development—Iannacone notes he used a lot of the concepts from the Met Life Clock Tower job to better work with Lightstone’s hotel development team.
Iannacone adds that he coordinated with many stakeholders throughout the entire project, from the operations side, the funding side, the construction team, and the Lightstone development team. The design of the hotel was conceived as a vertical timeline, finding inspiration from various periods in East Village history, starting with its earliest settlers and moving to the punk era to today.
Based on his background, in his role on this development, Iannacone worked for the senior vice president of construction, collaborating closely with the contractor and performing overall monitoring and support for the day-to-day buyouts of the construction team. He notes that he quickly realized the importance of communication throughout the development team so that “everyone’s expectations are understood, and everyone is smiling at the end.”
He reveals it’s always a challenge to ensure everyone’s voice is heard when it comes to ultimate success once the property opens, but he works hard to keep everyone on the same page, especially when aligning the work with all city codes and ordinances.
Currently, Iannacone is working on the development of Moxy South Beach, the seven-story hotel that is set to open on Miami Beach by the end of the year. This will mark Lightstone’s first Moxy outside of New York, and since each hotel design is dependent on location, this will pose an interesting new opportunity.
“Similar to other Marriott locations, there’s a brand standard so you have the same overall feel when you step on property; however, it will also have its own distinct local flavor,” Iannacone explains. “It has a very welcoming entrance area, with similar room sizes [to the other properties] and spectacular communal features.
“You learn from every project,” Iannacone continues. “You learn a lot about the teams you’re working with and how to interact to get the best outcome. That’s what I enjoy about every project I work on.”
Down to Earth
As a father of three daughters—who fall between ages three and ten—Gregory Iannacone’s life outside of work revolves mostly around his kids and their activities. This includes the local elementary school’s Dads’ Night, where students’ fathers put on a show every year. Iannacone relishes the opportunity to not only bond with his own kids but to meet and socialize with other families in his community.