Omni Dallas' suites putting privacy in question

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on February 13, 2012 at 10:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 14 at 4:10 PM

DALLAS - When the Omni Dallas Hotel near the city's convention center opened its doors, it changed the downtown skyline with its cutting edge lighting facade. But, it's another view of the glass tower that's bringing privacy into question.

"First impression was, 'Wow!  What a nice backdrop, the new hotel. It's beautiful,'" said convention visitor Pam Moore. "Then as we looked closer, there was restroom activity that was very obvious, down to the anatomy."

Pam Moore pointed to the corner suites of the hotel, near the skywalk. She and others attended a conference last month. They got an unexpected view of the hotel's guests at the event.

"These poor people don't know they are on exhibition at the Convention Center in D Hall," Moore said.

News 8 received a tip on the issue and investigated. Our cameras captured the smallest details, from the robes hanging near the tub, to the bathroom mirrors. From top to bottom, room after room, on different shoots, over several days, we spotted guests in their rooms with and without clothing, getting ready in their rooms — including the bathrooms.

Don Gatzke, Dean of the School of Architecture at University of Texas at Arlington, reviewed some of the video we shot of the hotel.

"I think there's an issue that you can in fact, see into the rooms," Gatzke said.

There isn't an issue in the middle of the hotel, where most of the rooms are located. Gatzke believes it's the corner suite's design that might be part of the problem.

"If people had stepped back into the middle of the room, you don't see them," Gatzke said. "It's the fact that the configuration of the room is pushing them out to the edge, where they are catching more the exterior illumination. The glass is tinted. It's treated, but I think it's a combination of issues that apply to that particular configuration that has caused the problem."

While most of the hotel's rooms are deep, these premier suites are built shallow and wide, to accentuate the view.  The bedroom, living room and main bathroom are up against the glass with  floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the city.

"My guess is you can only see in at certain times of the day, when the ambient lighting conditions are right," Gatzke said.

News 8 contacted the Omni and the City of Dallas, which owns the property, for comment. Both declined an on-camera interview, but each gave us a statement, which are included in full following this story.

"A guest can see into the convention center from the guest rooms, just as you can see from the convention center into the hotel," said Caryn Kboudi from Omni Hotels in a statement. "Therefore, it should be evident that a guest should use their window shades."

The view into the convention center at night improves, but during the day, it's tougher to see through its reflective windows.

As for the city, it also mentioned window treatments are provided.

"The hotel, like many hotels in any downtown environment, provides window treatments so guests have privacy," said City of Dallas Public Information Office Managing Director, Frank Librio. "We believe guests understand that they need to utilize the window treatments to regulate their privacy."

We asked the hotel if guests staying in these suites have been told they can be seen from the convention center, and if not, would they start reminding them to use their blinds. Their response was that they "don't say anything since the rooms have blinds."

We did see people using their top-down blinds or curtains, but in some instances, they were still visible from the convention center below.

Gatzke suspects guests still don't know they are on display.

"My sense is that people don't realize they're so visible from the outside, given again the lighting conditions," Gatzke said. "It's fixable and it's probably nothing that would be terribly expensive, given the cost of the hotel."

While window treatments lend privacy, using them completely changes the dynamics of the room. Its open feel disappears and so does its selling point, the view.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com


FULL STATEMENTS:

From Omni Hotels' Caryn Kboudi:

"- Yes, a guest can see into the convention center from the guest rooms just as you can see from the convention center into the hotel.

- Therefore, it should be evident that a guest should use their window shades.

- In virtually all major cities, buildings are close enough to see across the street into each other – it’s one of the reasons for window treatments."



From the City of Dallas Public Information Office:

"One of the best features of the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel is the amazing views of downtown and beyond from every room.  The hotel, like many hotels in any downtown environment, provides window treatments so guests have privacy.  We believe guests understand that they need to utilize the window treatments to regulate their privacy.

Frank Librio

Managing Director

Public Information Office

City of Dallas"



From Scott Lowe, Managing Partner of 5G Studio Collaborative:

"First, the hotel was designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to bring Dallas’ dynamic and iconic skyline experience to the guests of the Omni.  As with most every high-rise and mid-rise structure in urban and suburban areas, people can both see out of and into other buildings and the adjacent surroundings.  Of course, this hotel has window treatments (just like any other hotel) which provide privacy to the occupants and ensure a good night’s sleep.  This is not unlike the glass windows in our homes.  We all close our blinds/curtains at home for privacy, so naturally, people can and/or should probably do the same while traveling.

In addition…

Yes, a guest can see into the CC from the guest rooms just as a conventioneer can see from the CC into the hotel.  However, anyone can drive down any major thoroughfare/highway or roadway in the metroplex and see into open windows, should the windows be open and/or they choose to look that direction.  It really should be evident that for a guest to maintain their privacy that they should use their window shades/curtains provided in their room.  In virtually every major city around the world, buildings are close enough in proximity to see across the street/plaza/park/etc. into one another – which is one of the main reasons for window treatments."

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