It's not like any of these fabulous places advertised, "Rock 'n' rollers welcome here." However, it seems to go against hotel orthodoxy to cater to people who think MTV News is really the news, need the concierge to recommend a good tattoo artist, and might wind up needing an epinephrine spike in the middle of the night. So when the Ace Hotel opens in early April, the hip will finally be able to crash someplace that understands them.
"Cheap and chic" is what co-owner Alex Calderwood calls the hotel, located in condo-crowded Belltown. He, along with partners Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick, wanted to create a place that wasn't stuffy and floral, but was in tune with the culture. "We're creating something we would want to go to," says Weigel. "Everything we've done is like that."
When Weigel says "everything," he's referring to a mini-dynasty. Calderwood, partner in ARO.space and Tasty Shows, and Weigel, of Bimbo's, the Cha Cha Lounge, and the Baltic Room, first joined forces six years ago to create Rudy's barbershop. "We thought it up over dinner," explains Weigel. "Alex and I were kicking around the idea, and before you know it we were looking for real estate." Six shops later (five here, one in L.A.), Weigel and Calderwood's ideas have certainly paid off. Now that the Kings of Pine Street have determined how Seattle looks and where they go to party, they've set their sights on changing the way they sleep it off.
When Weigel and Calderwood found the former mission and flophouse on the corner of First and Wall, the partners knew immediately that their real estate wish had finally come true. "We'd been looking for a building in Seattle for three years, and had almost decided to do a hotel out of town. But then we stumbled across this place," says Weigel. "It used to be the Hotel Latona, and then it was a mission hotel. When Alex and I first saw it we said, 'Perfect! Just paint it white and it will look cool.'"
They were right: with white high-gloss auto paint on the walls, the look is clean and refreshing. Combined with dark walnut accents and flooring, the design is a little bit Danish modern and a little bit rough-hewn Seattle. The elegant floating stairs that rise from the street to the lobby are the first signal of the conceptual change in typical hotel demeanor. The basic rooms, which will have a modest base rate of $75 to $85, are small but airy. Low-to-the-floor beds, high ceilings, and large windows provide an illusion of spaciousness. Stainless steel accessories and cheeky accouterments add to the overall aesthetic statement: sexy comfort. The basic rooms utilize shared bathrooms, but the higher-priced rooms each have their own--entered by secret doorways that revolve you into the adjoining bath as if you were James Bond. Awaiting completion in May is a suite of connecting rooms at the back of the hotel which will accommodate larger groups (say... bands?) that wish to hole up en masse.
If the sole objective of the Ace Hotel was to provide travelers with high concept/low price digs, they'd have the world's hippest youth hostel. But this is a Hotel with a capital H, and that means amenities. Don't look for a mint on your pillow, friend. Instead, rejoice in the return of the Cyclops Café, a Belltown institution which lost its original space on First when a condo developer kicked it and a venerable artists' co-op to the curb in order to build brand new, expensive "artist's lofts" on the coveted land. In addition to being a full-scale restaurant in its own right, the Cyclops will provide room service to guests of the Ace. The adjoining Panther Bar will provide a suitable hang-out, so guests won't even have to take a taxi back to their hotel... they can just walk upstairs. Another lovely, and somewhat old-fashioned, touch is Fig. 1A, the florist on the building's east side. Looking like the laboratory where God invented botany, the florist gives another cunning twist on the idea of hotel culture. And, naturally, Rudy's is just around the corner in case you need a buzz cut the morning after. As Weigel explains, "We used to sit around and say, 'Don't you wish we had this? Don't you wish we had that?' We just decided to develop our own environment instead of settling for what we received from others."
No one doubts it will be long before the Ace Hotel lives up to its rock 'n' roll reputation. Are the owners ready for scandal? "Definitely," states Calderwood. "But it better be something good!" Hmm. Which of the beautiful people will be the first to forget to put on her robe before sauntering down the hall to the communal bathroom? Are the televisions so small because they are destined to get flung out the window by raving pop stars? Will Harborview's detox unit be on the speed dial? Can you call room service for mud shark? As partner Doug Herrick merrily notes, "First Avenue used to be the red light district, and there were hotels all along the street. We're just bringing the red light district back!"