Event: Harlem Aloft
opening preview party (the opening was pushed back to Dec. 2), Monday, November 8.
Location: The lobby of the new 124-room Aloft (a cheaper sister brand to the boutique-y W hotels) at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and West 123rd Street.
What We Saw: Lobby, lobby bar, lobby grab-n-go shop, a hotel room
What We Didn't See: The Apex Condos atop the hotel rooms, the gym (still a hardhat situation)
Dress Code: Publicist formal wear. In fact, the publicist-to-partier ratio seemed to be a healthy 3:1. C'mon freeloaders, afraid to go above 86th?
First impression: Glowy!
Awkward Moment: When we told the doorman we were here for the hotel preview party crazy, he looked at us like we were crazy. When we changed our tune to hotel opening party, he opened the door immediately. Semantics are fun!
Soundtrack: A pumping high-energy megamix from DJ Lina.
Shocking Revelation #1: It's pronounced a-LOFT, not A-loft. Whoops.
Menu: The invite promised grub from Harlem soul food legend Sylvia's, but we didn't really notice the food. The lobby's W XYZ Bar was serving up a beer brewed in Harlem, a sweet tea-vodka concoction and, 'natch, mojitos.
Swag: Gift bag included goodies like two CDs full of corporate-boutique-hotel-appropriate lobby jams (Macy Gray, Tonic, Train), Aloft sticky notes, a soy candle, a pencil, a luggage grip and jelly beans.
Shocking Revelation #2: Why no art on the gray hotel room walls? As Aloft VP Brian McGuinness explained, when people are lying in bed with nothing in their peripheral vision drawing their attention, the room feels bigger! Just one of the many fascinating market-researched details that went into the design.
Local Flava: The lobby will have an art wall featuring the for-sale work of Harlem artists.
Shocking Revelation #3: Hey circa '08 condo buyers at West 124th Street's Soho North, time to get some curtains, y'all.
Final Thoughts: For the past couple years, the Aloft has been seen as a Harlem gamechanger and yet another luxurious touch to the development boom on FDB. But after visiting, we can't say the locals are going to get much use out of the place. Unlike the latest wave of nightlife-dominated hotels that don't feel like hotels at all, this is a hotel that feels like a hotel. Accessed via a sunken plaza off the street, you wouldn't even know you're in Manhattan while standing in the lobby. The bar, with its scrolling news ticker and three TVs turned to sports, is more like an airport hangout than a trendy neighborhood hotspot. But we imagine business owners in the area are thrilled with the influx of customers, and this is the first major new hotel in Harlem in roughly 6,000 years, so, bravo!
The Sequel: Aloft DoBro opens January 20!
· Aloft Harlem [Starwood Hotels]
· Aloft Harlem coverage [Curbed]