The Preservationists: ASH NYCJuly 30, 2018
The Dean, a 52-room art-filled hotel in Providence, Rhode Island’s Downcity historic district—replete with a beer hall, coffee shop, cocktail bar, and karaoke joint—is one of the city’s thriving cultural hubs. First built in the early 1900s by the Episcopal Church, it devolved into a gentleman’s club before Brooklyn, New York-based ASH NYC revitalized it in 2013. Buoyed by a small network of investors and tax credits, the firm designs, develops, and operates a collection of hotels, historic conversions in emerging neighborhoods flaunting custom and vintage furniture and an eclectically distinctive look like the just-opened Siren Hotel in downtown Detroit.
Founding partners Ari Heckman (CEO) and Jonathan Minkoff (CFO) launched the studio some 10 years ago after sitting next to each other while working at Brooklyn development firm Cayuga Capital Management. “The recession was just starting, so it felt like a good time to do something interesting and bold,” recalls Heckman. Will Cooper, chief creative officer and partner, joined the team from Ralph Lauren in 2011, as did partner and director of development Jenna Goldman.She, who met Heckman studying city planning at Cornell University, also holds a master’s degree in real estate development from Columbia University, and led the Dean’s development process, ASH NYC’s first “complicated, mixed-use project,” as Heckman describes it, in his hometown.
When its public spaces are completed this fall, the 106-room Siren Hotel will encompass nine different food, beverage, and retail outlets, forging strategic partnerships with local chefs, including Kate Williams and Garrett Lipar. The old Renaissance-style Wurlitzer organ company building, dating to 1926, was essentially collapsing onto the street when the foursome salvaged it. Beyond the well-known connections to Motown and the automotive industry, the firm dug deeper into Detroit’s past and its legacy of midcentury modern buildings: “I was taken aback by the grandeur of the architecture that was built in the turn of the century through the ’30s and ’40s,” says Cooper. The guestrooms are a soothing respite from the “visual overload” of the public spaces, Cooper points out, who turned to such disparate elements as Italian films from the 1950s, vintage terrazzo tiles, Mexican oxblood, and Milanese bars for inspiration. “We were there every day, installing and placing every piece of furniture ourselves,” he adds.
Joining forces with local developer Nathalie Jordi, ASH NYC’s 71-room Hotel Peter & Paul will debut this fall in New Orleans on a campus-like site of a former church, school, rectory, and convent. Each floor and space will celebrate a different color scheme, with fabrics made in Switzerland. Baltimore, meanwhile, will take the spotlight in 2020, a renovation of a bachelor apartment haven-turned-office building.
What sets ASH NYC apart is their unique perspective as both developer and designer, allowing them to live and breathe the properties for a more “organic and soulful” process, says Cooper, who hand-selects everything to achieve their signature “touchable,” curated aesthetic. Adds Goldman: “If you were to apply the [typical] hotel development process onto the ASH process, you’d be trying to fit this very square box around a very circular, evolving process.”
And it seems they are just getting started. “There are all these interesting things happening in these non-global capital cities,” says Heckman, and “we want to create a platform for travelers to be attracted to that place and, in turn, go navigate it from the comfort of our hotel that feels more like home. That’s [our] ethos.”