Photo: Ace Hotel
When you take a step inside the Ace Hotel, you’re taking a step into a lot of culture and a little bit of retro rock-and-roll. At the boutique hotel chain’s New York location, you might get a whiff of Stumptown coffee as you’re greeted by the staff in their pressed, button down white shirts, dark blue Levi jeans and custom designed Converse shoes.
Take a peek around and you’ll see a vintage photo booth, suede sofas occupied by affluent travellers and young techies typing away on their laptops at the long library-styled table.
It’s a scene that’s hip. So hip that the comedy show “Portlandia” poked fun of the hotel chain’s hipster charm in an episode.
It started in 1999 when Alex Calderwood, Wade Weigel, and Doug Herrick purchased a Salvation Army halfway house in Seattle and transformed it into the first Ace. It wasn’t long before a former film site in downtown Portland became a second location, followed by a Howard Johnson in Palm Springs, C.A. and an early 1900s building in Midtown Manhattan.
“Creative salvage is something that fits well with our ethos. We like the idea of bringing new life to a property that’s challenged or fitting in to a neighbourhood that doesn’t seem like an obvious match. The challenges make it interesting,” Calderwood told us. “Old buildings have stories to tell. They might be buried between layers of old paint. You might have to dig them out — but the digging is part of the process that endears you to the human side of the structure.”
Photo: Ace Hotel
“Choosing a new location is almost a kind of divination. There has to be a natural connection with the bones of the place. We’re also lucky enough to have a team of people and partners who bring intriguing, inspiring properties to us all the time, so we have this ever-changing canvas to work with, which is great.”And the a la mode hotel chain isn’t planning on halting expansion any time soon. Its next project will take place in the historic United Artists building in Los Angeles.
“The building has a very distinct architectural identity as well as human history. Much of what we do will just be allowing the building to speak for itself,” Calderwood says. “L.A. is a place we are truly in love with, and we’re very excited to act on some existing relationships and ideas that have been simmering for a long time, and about being a part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown L.A.”
Although Calderwood didn’t confirm any other openings — only telling us that the hotel is “always open to interesting projects in the US and abroad” — Katherine Clarke at The Real Deal reported that New York’s Ace Hotel investor Allen Gross is rumoured to have his eyes set on the circa 1880’s Temple Court building in downtown New York City.
Photo: Ace Hotel
But growing fast can have its challenges. Each location has a different culture and the Ace has to pay attention, “custom tailor” its zeitgeist to each environment and create something that’s “rooted in the local culture.”Calderwood attributes flexibility and “maintaining a cohesive vision that’s also fluid and democratic” as part of the team’s strategy and says that they want growth to happen naturally, not forced. Aside from this, he also says having “widly talented friends across the globe” helps.
“At each stage we’ve been able to attract the right mix of people, which again is a function of engaging local communities and relationships,” Calderwood says. “We’ve enjoyed a rare lack of compromise from the start, and our demonstrated ability to stay true to while evolving our brand culture and embracing new relationships, projects and technologies allows us to be pretty fearless about growth and change.
“When we’re working on a new project, it’s just this huge invitation for us to collaborate and co-create with artists, brands, musicians and local makers.”
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