WHY IT RATES: The innovative new hotels will be located in Tampa, Des Moines, Fargo, Birmingham, Denver and Alexandria. —Codie Liermann, Associate Editor.
Call them America’s rising cities: Midsize areas buzzing with innovation, imagination and opportunity.
Maverick hotel group Aparium was the first upscale full-service brand to bet on these places, having opened eight independent and authentic hotels in overlooked markets like Kansas City, MO (Crossroads Hotel), Topeka, KS (Cyrus Hotel), Detroit, MI (Detroit Foundation Hotel), Montclair, NJ (The MC Hotel), and Minneapolis, MN (Hewing Hotel).
Now, Aparium is doubling down on its future. The company today unveiled an ambitious pipeline of six new hotels to open by early-2022. It’s the boldest vision for any independent brand at the most challenging time in the history of hospitality.
Aparium hotels in Des Moines, IA and Tampa, FL are set to open in 2020; openings in Birmingham, MI, Fargo, ND, and Denver, CO, are slated for 2021 and Alexandria, VA to follow in 2022.
Founded by Kevin Robinson and Mario Tricoci, Aparium’s rule-breaking approach has made it a closely watched industry success story. The duo met a decade ago, when they launched the Elysian Hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast. The hotel made a huge splash, transforming Chicago’s luxury market before Hilton acquired it in 2009. “We opened the Elysian in the worst days of the recession, so that prepared us for anything,” Tricoci said. Aparium’s audacious vision for the next two years builds on that resiliency.
When they decided to create a new kind of hotel company, Robinson and Tricoci set their sights on cities some derisively call “secondary markets” – underserved places with incredible creative capital, strong personalities, and rich histories.
While those cities are becoming newly hip, Aparium was the first independent hotel group to discover their potential. “As we traveled, we were wowed by the incredible culture and character of these places, but disappointed to see them saturated with branded hotels,” Tricoci said. “We decided to turn the conventional development formula inside out. Instead of imposing a brand on a city, we’d harness a city’s spirit and stories to build singular hotels with a native soul, and they in turn would form the Aparium brand.”
Robinson, a former Four Seasons Hotels executive, continued. “Guests are no longer interested in generic brand experiences,” he said. “Like travelers themselves, our teams explore the people, flavors, and stories that make a city surprising, and express that sense of place through our properties. Each hotel should make you curious about its home city.”
Every Aparium hotel feels original and genuine – what the brand calls ‘translocal hospitality.’ Rather than impose identical guidelines for its hotels, the company starts each project as a blank slate. Building a hotel means exploring a city, learning its stories, and getting to know its people. As a result, every Aparium hotel feels like it belongs exactly where it is.
“Inspired by our host cities, we cultivate loyal, local followings by delivering communal experiences unique to each location,” Tricoci said. “Our hotels, restaurants, and bars are authentic crossroads where travelers and locals linger in each other’s company, creating a remarkable confluence of cultural color.”
When Aparium enters a market, its team talks to a wildly diverse range of locals with deep connections to their city – from investors, architects and designers to artists, makers, creatives and influencers. A tattoo artist Robinson and Tricoci met in Kansas City ended up designing the body-art-inspired wallpaper for the Crossroads Hotel’s guestrooms; Aparium tapped local interior design firm MartinPartrick3 Studio for Hewing Hotel’s oversized rooftop lounge with an adjacent oversized sauna and cold plunge pool – a nod to the Scandinavian culture very much prevalent in Minneapolis.
Even Aparium hotel names tell stories. The Hewing was inspired by the act of chopping lumber and refining its appearance – a nod to the giant pine beams that abound in the interior of the hotel – logged in Minnesota and floated down to mills just down the street. In Memphis, the Hu. Hotel channels the spirit of legendary local Hugh “Hu.” Lawson White Brinkley, who put Memphis on the map as a shipping hub while also being a tongue and cheek nod to the vibrant color “hues” of Memphis.
“Each hotel is born out of at least two years of detailed communication, relationships, collaborations, and inspirations,” Robinson said. “Stories people have shared with us about each location encourage what we name the hotels and what we name their restaurants and bars.”
Historic preservation and adaptive reuse are also key to Aparium’s story. By choosing architecturally meaningful buildings with deep significance for their communities, Aparium has become a champion of urban heritage. In Kansas City, MO, Aparium transformed the landmark 1911 Pabst and Pendergast buildings into the Crossroads Hotel after a meticulous restoration; in Detroit, Aparium transformed the former Detroit Fire Department headquarters and adjacent Pontchartrain Wine Cellars building into the ultra-stylish Detroit Foundation Hotel with a wooden wall in each guestroom repurposed from wood from the former firehouse.
Equally impressive: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, food and beverage accounted for over 40 percent of topline revenue at each Aparium property – a striking statistic for the industry. It means bars and restaurants at Aparium hotels are as valued by locals as they are by guests – and that Aparium’s locally born, carefully crafted food and beverage concepts stay relevant in each market because they’re genuine.
By the end of 2021, Aparium plans to open six new hotels. It’s the most ambitious pipeline of any independent brand in the industry. Each hotel embodies a city’s characters, culture, and history. They include:
Hotel Haya, Tampa, FL (scheduled opening September 24, 2020):
A brilliant adaptive reuse of two distinctive buildings combined with a smart new build, Hotel Haya captures the exuberant Cuban, Italian, and Spanish influences of the famed Ybor City neighborhood. The hotel’s design by Alfonso Architects Incorporated evokes the 1950s Golden Age of Havana; “mid-century Cuban” guestrooms will feature period fabrics and colors, along with locally made glass bulbs that pay homage to Ybor’s famous streetlights. Exposed brick walls, a giant neon “HAYA” sign, and classic art –including four massive Goya reproductions – will complement joyous colors. Dining includes Flor Fina, with “coastal Mediterranean meets Gulf Coast” cuisine: Quiquiriqui, a smart Cuban cafe and neighborhood gathering spot that translates as “the call of the rooster.” With 178 rooms, Hotel Haya will become the largest property in Aparium’s portfolio. Bookings now live here.
Surety Hotel, Des Moines IA (scheduled opening October 14, 2020):
Outfitted in marble, hardwood, metals and leather, the 138-key Surety evokes the proud heritage of banking and finance in Des Moines. Led by Slingshot Architecture and design by DLR Group, the hotel is a brilliant adaptive reuse of the circa-1914, Beaux-Arts Hippee Building – once Iowa’s tallest – and boasts features like original plastered coffered ceilings and ornate mail chute down the building’s entire length. Tapping the region’s cool under-the-radar art scene, the Surety displays rotating exhibitions of specially commissioned work, like Julia Franklin’s “dress shirt” made of waxed 1920s banking documents. In sleek, modern guest rooms, the standout piece will be an ornate armoire that recalls the bank’s opulence and wealth; it’ll contrast with minimalist-luxe furniture and original wood floors. Mulberry Street Tavern, Surety’s unpretentious dining space, will feel like a local watering hole. Bookings now live here.
Jasper Hotel, Fargo ND (scheduled opening January 2021):
Built into a newly constructed, mid-rise, mixed-use tower in the heart of Fargo’s culturally eccentric and art driven community, and designed by ESG Architecture and Design, Jasper Hotel will feature 125 rooms at the center of the burgeoning downtown market. The restaurant, Rosewild, will offer “around the hearth” plains-inspired cuisine featuring rustic Nordic dishes and ingredients for up to 54 guests, a nod to the strong Norwegian heritage of North Dakota’s initial settlers who arrived in the 1800’s. The bar will feature classic cocktails with Nordic-midwestern touches such as garnishes of spruce, anise flavors, and market ingredients. The property will also feature a ground floor coffee bar. As with all Aparium’s properties, the hotel will act as a beacon of Fargo’s community, incorporating the arts and culture that make the city special through partnerships and programming with local makers, designers, and innovators.
Daxton Hotel, Birmingham, MI (scheduled opening January 2021):
Bringing a new vision of modern luxury to Birmingham – just 30 minutes from Detroit – the 151-key Daxton will be the poshest property in Aparium’s portfolio. In a striking new building on the city’s main drag designed by award-winning firm Simeone Deary, exquisite materials will complement minimalist-luxe designs and cutting-edge art curated by world-famous Saatchi Art. Sleek glass walls and avant-garde furniture frame public areas. Color floods spaces throughout the hotel – a chartreuse lobby, deep-burgundy guestrooms, lavender parlors. Madam, the hotel’s dining space, will serve “enlightened American” fare under lush greenery hanging from high ceilings reflected in wood floors.
Aparium also plans to open The Clayton in Denver, CO’s Cherry Creek neighborhood in March 2021, while the Hotel Heron in Alexandria, VA is slated for a mid-2022 opening.
SOURCE: Aparium Hotel Group press release.
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