The millennial revolution has turned Brooklyn from a place you came from to a highly sought-after destination.And no part of Brooklyn has witnessed a broader transformation than Williamsburg. The William Vale is located at the northernmost edge of this part of the borough, on land that once housed waterside manufacturing facilities.
Despite its newfound hipness, Williamsburg’s street life is still in its infancy. Hence, to build a 183-room hotel in an area that has no considerable amount of pre-existing sidewalk life or nearby landmark attractions is risky business. So, as Sebastien Maingourd, the property’s general manager, remarked, “From an architectural standpoint alone, The William Vale attracts an audience just to check us out. We are creating our own foot traffic!”
The sheer brilliance of the property’s imposing facade is evident from very far away. In fact, the design is so iconic that I was easily able to identify the building on my approach into LaGuardia Airport, even though it is nowhere near the glide path. Exterior crossbeams reach out from the ground to 10 stories high – floors allotted for commercial use – thereby bracing the tower, which stands on two narrow pillars housing the elevator shafts. The hotel then sits atop this office space and the orientation of the building affords all guestrooms with sweeping views of Manhattan. All rooms also have balconies with floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
A typical floor has two suites and 16 rooms. The rooms are, well, small at 225 square feet plus a 75-square-foot balcony. While with normally sized furniture, this would be considered somewhat claustrophobic, the sheer brilliance of the interior design fitted with customized pieces makes the space feel significantly larger. Space was also saved by miniaturizing the closet, utilizing sliding door entry to the bathroom and careful accessory design. Alessandro Munge of Toronto was the designer, and his genius in the guestrooms ranks second only to the architecture by Albo Liberis.
The public space is likewise esoteric, with a small lobby in the center of an open courtyard. This works in summer, but the short walk from the street will be interesting to navigate in winter. Adjacent to the lobby is an open area with sofas and a magnificent 3-D mural produced by local artist Marela Zacarias.
Chef Andrew Carmellini and NoHo Hospitality Group run the food and beverage program including Leuca, a Southern Italian cuisine restaurant off the lobby; Westlight, a trendy bar located on the rooftop that boasts outstanding views; and Mister Dips, serving burgers, fries and soft serve from a trailer located at Vale Park, the public green space. Completing the project is a 60-foot-long terrace pool above the parking garage.
Any owner planning a new property owes it to themselves to see how these guest rooms and the property has been assembled. It is no small feat!
As Mr. Maingourd noted, “After an extended five-month soft opening, we’re now on track to achieve all of the preopening occupancy goals. The market has granted us permission to charge rates at or slightly above our comp set, and overall we’re pleased with performance to date.”
In a nutshell, here are some reasons why you should visit the William Vale beyond my lauding of the architecture.
- To witness an incredibly efficient use of guestroom space, noting the closet, bathroom and room configurations
- To see how the use of open space within the hotel’s environment elevates the sense of arrival and overall guest experience
- To see how a semi-basement setting enhances the restaurant experience, noting the use of lighting and the ceiling panels to differentiate various rooms
- To see how statues and installation art can be integrated into a lobby design versus the more standard framed paintings
- To see how guest corridors can be altered by moving a door off its main axis
The William Vale may just be the ultimate expression of a contemporary North American lifestyle hotel. This is an independent property that sets standards for innovative architecture and design with an overwhelming consumer response to boot!