Graves Hospitality to open Brooklyn location

BROOKLYN, NY—What could Minneapolis and Brooklyn have in common? Well, come June each location will have the presence of Graves Hospitality Corp. —the heartland city as the existing headquarters for the developer/manager; the nitty-gritty borough as the site of the group’s first open hotel project in NYC.
The Hotel Williamsburg & Residences at McCarren Park also will be the first full-service luxury boutique hotel in Brooklyn, according to Benjamin Graves, president of the eponymous company founded by his father and CEO, James.
The 64-room hotel is part of a mixed-used development that encompasses the entire block between Berry St. and Bedford Ave. on North 12th St. in the trendy neighborhood from which the hotel draws its name. The MUD includes two low-rise residential towers and the hotel, set in separate buildings connected by an underground parking lot. GHC and partner KSK Construction Group are the primary owners of the MUD, which also has other investors.
Once a quiet, nondescript residential area, the super-hot neighborhood, nicknamed “Billyburg,” has taken off over the past decade, drawing a wealth of businesses ranging from movie/video and music companies to clothing and home décor boutiques to restaurants of every stripe.
Graves had been scouting the area for opportunities—it has several other hotel projects under development in the city, including Chelsea, Midtown and downtown Brooklyn—and as far back as six years ago, while watching the neighborhood emerge, noticed Williamsburg had few hotels.
“There was a real lack of quality hotel products in Brooklyn,” said Graves, noting even today there are only a few primary full-service hotels and boutiques, such as the long-established Marriott Downtown, Sheraton and Le Bleu.
At the same time, KSK was starting to move on its MUD and was looking for a hotel and food and beverage component. The two companies connected and broke ground about three years ago. Graves recalled financing on the project occurred in 2008, “right at the downturn in the economy, but it was before banks completely halted doing loans.”
If there had been doubt about the project, that has evaporated. The owners now find their project in a destination market where there is so much activity that streets are teeming with people seven days a week.
“Brooklyn, basically when you look at it, there are quite a few rooms but for the most part the rooms are very limited service,” said Graves. “There’s really not anything like what we’re doing with this particular project.”
The hotel’s rooms will offer views either to Manhattan or overlooking the property’s swim club. There are four suites with balconies, including a penthouse that occupies the entire front of the eighth floor. The penthouse features a private bar and two terraces that offer views of the New York City skyline and Queens.
Designed by Studio GAIA, rooms have six-foot by seven-foot windows, modern FF&E and translucent windows into the bathroom. Italian linens and amenities from Malin + Goetz are featured.
In its aim to be noteworthy, the property is mixing old and new, offering in-room enjoyment of a Crosley record player and vinyl selections (with additional records available in the lobby). Coffee delivered to the room comes in a green Stanley Thermos.
To capitalize on the neighborhood’s vibe, cutting-edge elements are in place. To start, check-in is at the lobby bar, where a stream flows down the center of the room under café tables and a fireplace adds atmosphere. A 24-hour concierge also will be located here.
The bar overlooks the hotel’s restaurant, which is set in a sunken dining room. Andres Grundy will serve as chef. He previously was chef de cuisine at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in the Four Seasons New York and at Clio in Boston. The restaurant will have its own cocktail lounge and a chef’s table proximate the open kitchen. A wall of windows will look out on the hotel’s pool club. There, a 40-foot by 20-foot swimming pool, surrounded by cabanas and with a poolside bar, will be available for guests. Graves anticipates adding paid memberships for the project’s residential condo owners and locals as well. (Condo owners will be able to purchase other services, such as in-room dining. At press time the condo units were 92 percent sold, said Graves.)
And in keeping with current urban hotel trends, the Williamsburg Hotel will offer a rooftop terrace overlooking McCarren Park and the NYC skyline. Called The Watering Tower, outdoor dining and cocktails will be available to guests and locals alike.
Graves expects a mix of guests to discover the property. “It’s a combination. We’re signing up our corporate accounts right now and working with tour operators.” He said there’s been “a lot” of interest from smaller, boutique local businesses as well as large-scale television and movie studios. “They’re really super-excited about the project,” said Graves.
The executive senses the area will “buy local” and he and his partners have responded in kind with some of the hotel’s features, including ordering the staff’s uniforms from Brooklyn Industries and having a Brooklyn Brewery signature brew available.
“We hear our neighbors saying they have visitors coming a lot,” said Graves, who notes the hotel is a quick ride by subway into and out of Manhattan. “And we’re also getting a lot of good feedback from musicians who are traveling to New York.”
While locals and guests will mix within the hotel, Graves and his partners are adamant about keeping The Williamsburg from being a “trendoid” scene, i.e., a destination so popular guests can’t get into their own restaurant.
“It’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid. We really are catering to the Brooklyn crowd and the neighborhood of the hotel. We’re kind of the antithesis of a Meat Packing hotel,” he said, referencing the see-and-be-seen district on Manhattan’s lower west side. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure they do just fine. But what we’re looking to give the guest as an experience is really going to be an urban resort. There are a lot of Europeans that travel to Brooklyn, and they’re looking for an experience that is more in line with a New York neighborhood, rather than ‘Touristville,’” said Graves.
Interestingly, he sees the hotel’s comp set being across the East River in Manhattan rather than locally. “There’s really nothing like what we’re doing in Brooklyn right now. That’s why I’m saying you’d have to go outside our area to find competition. It’s really a first of its kind in the neighborhood, for sure.”