The opening may be a year late, but after admittedly developing his most ambitious hotel to date, Jim Thompson is preparing for a successful launch of the Aloft Hotel in Deep Deuce this week.
The $18 million, seven-story, 134-room hotel is set for a “soft opening” Wednesday with grand opening celebrations scheduled May 16. Guests will discover a hotel unlike any other in Oklahoma City.
The interior is as contemporary and modern as the outside facade. The floors are exposed concrete. The ceiling and ductwork are exposed in several areas as well. A ticker provides guests with business, sports and entertainment headlines. Card games and distractions (even a miniature Simon game) can be found throughout the lobby. A rotating art exhibit is on display behind the pool table.
An outdoor pool, large video board and fireplace provide even more distractions for guests who might spend time visiting in the lobby’s seating area.
The Aloft is at the corner of Walnut Avenue and NE 2 where Deep Deuce and Bricktown connect, where a two-story medical office stood for almost a half century. The hotel has an imposing presence that hovers over the Bricktown skyline.
“I looked at this location and I felt that we have the entrance into Bricktown and we needed to add a lot more than a standard Aloft has,” Thompson said. “I wanted to give this spot everything we could, everything it deserved.”
Thompson, who has a masters degree in architecture, did much of the personalizing himself, starting with the conceptual design he created before final architectural blueprints were created by TAP Architecture.
It was also Thompson who sought to tweak the standard Aloft design by adding 8,000 square feet of meeting space on the top floor (and 15,000 square feet of meeting space throughout the hotel) while other Aloft hotels usually have just a token 500-square-foot meeting room. Thompson also added a series of executive suites named “Savvy” and “Ultra Savvy” suites that are furnished with sleeper sofas and jacuzzis.
“It’s a very European style of room — it’s very efficient,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s most dramatic addition might be the two-story “Celebrity Suite,” which at 1,900 square feet is as big as an average suburban home. The suite comes with an attached room for bodyguards.
The Celebrity Suite isn’t cheap at $1,500 a night (with a two-night minimum requirement), but Thompson and his director of sales and marketing, Kara DeNardo, have no worries about keeping the suite occupied. DeNardo said the suite already has reservations for unnamed visiting celebrities — who will be traveling with their bodyguards.
“We feel like with this location, there will be a demand for it. It was quite a challenge to build,” Thompson said. “The staircase came in one piece — 5,500 pounds. So it had to be delivered by crane through the roof.”
Thompson’s hotels typically include a restaurant and bar. The Aloft will open with a three-level WXYZ lounge that will include food service. The bar and restaurant is designed to interact with the street, which already includes Urban Johnnies and Native Roots market across the street at the Level apartments.
One storefront on the west side of the hotel remains for lease and Thompson is looking for a restaurant anchor.
The hotel already is booked with 1,000 room reservations and 16 weddings.
Thompson, meanwhile, is eager to end, once and for all, any questions about the hotel’s opening. The Aloft brand itself was started in 2008 by Starwood Hotels, and has grown to 100 locations in the past six years. The Deep Deuce hotel was first announced in 2010.
This week’s soft opening of the hotel follows a series of delays that date back a year. Thompson early on had to overcome subcontractors who he took to court over allegations of unfinished work and shoddy construction.
“This was the most challenging building Mr. Thompson and I ever endeavored in,” said Steve Zimmerman, Thompson’s construction superintendent. “We faced a lot of situations and a lot of long hours of thinking. It was a very complicated, challenging building even if everything went well. But we got through it. I’m hoping he’ll take a break for a while.”
Thompson on Monday seemed eager to follow Zimmerman’s suggestion.
“We’ve had delays,” Thompson said, “but it’s been worth it.”
Visitors at the Aloft Hotel will be introduced to a European vocabulary for its amenities and staff. Terms include:
Employees - Talent
Managers - Talent coaches
Restrooms - WC (water closet)
Elevators - Lifts