If you’re familiar with Ace Hotels, you know their boutique-style layouts, incorporations of local flavor, and artistic approaches to hospitality have won guests over, far and wide.
With locations in just over half a dozen cities around the world, their rarity makes it even more special for these cities’ inhabitants, as they’ve become somewhat of a trademark, or an ode to the city’s affluent culture and charm. And as advocates of all things culture in the ‘Burgh, we were more than a little stoked when we found out our city was Ace’s next venture.
The former East Liberty YMCA has been restored and transformed into Ace’s next 63-room establishment, and this December, it’ll be open for business. In addition to a restaurant, ballroom, gym, and a pool Mr. Rogers once swam in, there are many Pittsburgh-centric surprises and details just waiting to be discovered…
We chatted with Ace Pittsburgh’s Cultural Engineer, Aaron Clark, who gave us the inside scoop on their latest installment, including: its hometown inspirations, curated hotel rooms, and a restaurant guests can booze and brunch at seven days a week–yes, you heard correct. Seven.
Check out our interview with him below for more details:
Nak You Out: Why did Ace Hotels choose Pittsburgh?
Aaron Clark: “When we were invited to check out Pittsburgh years back, the drive and spark of the city spoke to us. We fell in love with the creative, dynamic people with hands in the technology and art scenes, as well as people who were doing beautiful things in the culinary world and beyond. Pittsburgh’s long been an iconic pillar of American life, and it’s exciting to be doing something a bit different in such a beautiful, storied city.”
NYO: How will the Ace experience differ from a typical hotel stay; and how will Ace Pittsburgh differ from Ace’s in other cities?
AC: “Every project for Ace is dictated by the building, the neighborhood, the local scene — the culture that inspires us and the people who make the city compelling. We believe that the joy of travel is experiencing something different, marked by the histories and people who’ve made their homes there. Ace Hotel Pittsburgh is our love letter back to the city, so everything from regional Shaker design to the love for black and gold sports teams and the history of the building itself make it unique. The hotel was designed completely in-house by Atelier Ace, which marks the first time we’ve done that since 2007 in Portland, so it’s been an intimate passion project from the beginning.”
NYO: How could staying at Ace change, create or develop your guests’ perceptions of Pittsburgh?
AC: “Ace doesn’t change people, per se, so much as provide a home base to explore the city for people who are curious, interesting and interested. We hope to share the art, happenings, culture and community that we’ve found here, to be a conduit for guests to come to their own perceptions and conclusions. There’s so much to love in Pittsburgh — we think the city speaks more powerfully for itself than we ever could.”
NYO: You’ve selected 7 individuals to choose their own selection of 50 vinyls to be featured in Ace’s rooms with turntables; Where did the idea stem from?
AC: “We’ve always been fans of vinyl. Our hotels have rooms with turntables and records in them, and often have listening stations in the lobby where guests can check out music. We thought we could do more with this idea and really make it work for Pittsburgh by collaborating with local spaces and DJs on our selection. The city has a heavy record collecting culture — and its roster of amazing record stores stands testament to this.”
NYO: Who have you chosen to select records and why?
AC: “We’re working with Kelly Carter (PGHBox, Milk Records), J. Malls (Title Town, IDigPGH.com), Herman Peal (DJ Soy Sos, PearlArts Studios), Ginger Brooks Takahashi (LTTR.org, the band M.E.N.), DJ Selecta (720 Records, Grand Groove Radio), Michael Seamans (Mind Cure Records), and Preslav Lefterov (Machine Age Studios/Records, Pittsburgh Track Authority). All of these people have deep histories in Pittsburgh music. They are doing great things: throwing parties, manning blogs, owning record stores, and running music studios and Pittsburgh-based labels. They’ve been contributing to the city for decades, and are among those intangible forces that guide the direction of Pittsburgh’s culture. We want to celebrate the good work they do.”
NYO: What do you anticipate that each individual will bring to the table in regards to music selection and how it’ll cater to your guests?
AC: “The curators all have an individualized perspective, with a bit of complementary overlap. Preslav and Michael are both running well-respected labels and putting out local artists. Machine Age hits disco, hip hop, drum and bass, house, techno and then some. Mind Cure carries the torch for punk and noise. They’re arguably the largest modern day musical exports for Pittsburgh, which makes them a no-brainer, because we want a heavy presence of local artists in our crates. All of their records will be marked with a sticker showing that they’re from this city and where to find out more. Ginger Brooks is an amazing artist, who has been a member of a lot of important musical projects with international reach. Kelly, Herman (Soy Sos), Selecta and J. Malls are among the top tier selectors that cover all genres. They’ve either owned, or worked at record stores and continuously played amazing DJ sets all over the city for years. They play everything from jazz, to funk, to soul, house, hip hop and blues — they really keep the city on its musical toes.”
NYO: What other unique surprises, details or events can we expect upon Ace’s grand opening?
AC: “We’re putting a lot of energy towards programming broadly. We want to create events and spaces for queer activists and families, the music-obsessed and the diehard sports fans. If we can help bring back the beautiful melting pot vibe that has been missing in East Liberty since the closure of Shadow Lounge, we’ll be en route to [reaching] our goals.”
NYO: Will Whitfield [restaurant] be opening at the same time? If not, when is it scheduled to open?
AC: “Whitfield opens on December 10 with the hotel. We’ll be serving all the way until 2am, and featuring a boozy brunch seven days a week.”
This Thursday, TITLE TOWN’s Soul & Funk Party DJs J. Malls and Gordy G. will be manning the decks, entertaining guests and setting the mood to prep you for what your visit at Ace Hotel will entail: a funky, soulful, Pittsburgh experience that you won’t find anywhere else…
Additionally, we’re giving away an overnight stay and two tix for Ace’s NYE Party to one lucky winner! You can enter to win them in the Rafflecopter below.