Every now and again a hotel brand will come along that makes a neighbourhood better, both fitting in with and enhancing the ‘hoods pulse, soul and sense of community. But believe us, it doesn’t happen often.
A closer look at Ace New York, Hoxton Shoreditch or The Line in LA, will reveal an almost visible blending of hotel and local culture. It doesn’t seem forced, try-hard or even pre-meditated, but instead it just organically meshes and that hotel becomes a beacon, social hub and hotspot to the neighbourhood and community. Though many hotel groups understandably, choose to play it safe, instead favouring prime real estate for their ventures in more obvious and thus, expensive locations. Only a rare few brands or development vehicles can visit a neighbourhood and enhance it. The benefit of going into a part of town that is less obvious is, of course, the small matter of the real estate, but this is a risk that a brand circumvents if they have the ability to generate buzz, demand and obviously the desired overnight rates.
So when we heard Ace Hotel Group style rumblings in Downtown LA, a part of town we only ever used to drive through fast, we paid attention. Mainly because if there is one thing that Ace do well, it’s embrace, augment and galvanise, the cultural fabric of a neighbourhood.
But don’t be fooled, this building in Downtown LA was no ordinary building, it had a story, a theatrical narrative and perhaps most importantly, a beautiful nod to old school Hollywood glamour. The old United Artists building and theatre was chosen as the site for the Ace Hotel in LA. It was originally built in 1927 for United Artists, the maverick film studio founded by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. Ace have also successfully and admirably reactivated the 1600 seat performance space with screening room, in the Spanish Gothic inspired theatre. They took great effort to restore the rich architectural heritage of the building and its surroundings. The 182 bedroom hotel in Downtown LA features a rooftop pool and bar, fitness center and in-room amenities exclusive to the hotel. At the time of opening headlines and reviews from major authorities and publications read, “finally, a reason to go to downtown LA”.
Ace’s ability to augment and amplify real estate value, through enhanced demand, is also well documented with the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama. Yet another building with a distinguished storied past, originally built in 1917 in Panama City, a Unesco World Heritage site. The American Trade Hotel features 50 bedrooms, ample meeting and events spaces, a jazz club, restaurant and lobby cafe. Adjacent to American Trade Hotel, American Trade Hall’s 16,000 square feet of event space can accommodate business meetings, conferences, private receptions, weddings, social gatherings and dinners. Serving as Ace’s first “luxury property” it pairs their unique hipster vision of hospitality within a resort like setting, imagine Ace’s slightly older, distinguished and perhaps more elegant cousin.
At the time of the American Trade Hotel news breaking, Ace founder, Alex Calderwood stated, “We look forward to maintaining close relations with the community while providing a special, curated, luxury experience for our guests”, you know he meant it too. The use of these iconic and legendary buildings is part and parcel of Ace’s philosophy in that history, story and community are at the root of public engagement along with compelling design and of course, sincerity.
With the in-house creative agency vehicle, Atelier Ace, behind them, the brand effortlessly puts muscular and dynamic personality into everything they do in a way that captures the intrigue of the past and the playfulness of the present, whilst being sensitive to the neighbourhood and the very people of it.
For brands such as the ones we’ve touched on, the ability to generate buzz is paramount. It isn’t rocket science, but there’s undeniably genius at play. Matthew Shaer wrote a beautiful feature for Fast Company on Alex Calderwood, in it he mentioned a quote from a close colleague of Ace’s founder, and perhaps in many ways this simple comment best sums up his legacy and outstanding contribution to this and so many other industries, “He saw what you could do with material that nobody else wanted”.
Image courtesy of Ace Hotel Group