Silver-haired Warhol-hoarder Aby Rosen, 55, is comfortable with controversy. Whether it is uprooting proud New York institutions like the Four Seasons Restaurant or offending well-heeled Old Westbury residents with a 33-foot nude Damien Hirst sculpture on his five-acre estate, Rosen is known to smirk in the face of angry mobs. But with his latest endeavor, Rosen is taking a decidedly less-confrontational tack.
In March, Rosen is opening a $180 million, 221-room boutique hotel at 138 Lafayette Street in Soho — formerly a Holiday Inn. It’s dubbed 11 Howard, and it’s a fairly par-for-the-course development for Rosen, who was responsible for the Paramount and Gramercy Park hotels. But fans of Rosen’s postmodern, dressed-down, big-ticket brand can expect two big departures at his newest hotel: a philanthropic revenue model and a distinct lack of red velvet ropes.
Part marketing stunt, part genuine altruism, a percentage of 11 Howard’s room revenue from all reservations booked directly with the hotel will be donated to the Global Poverty Project, described as an international education and advocacy organization working to end extreme poverty.
Guests can look forward to a distinct lack of red velvet ropes.
The hotel is also partnering with Lauren Bush Lauren’s FEED Projects, which sells apparel and accessories that in turn fund meals for hungry children, and actress Olivia Wilde’s Conscious Commerce, which allows customers to donate to charity via online shopping.
Second, Rosen is creating a less-exclusive atmosphere at the hotel, where he hopes guests, diners and nighttime thrill seekers can enjoy a luxurious atmosphere sans Kafkaesque queues and outmoded social hierarchies.
“The days of being snobby or fake elitist is passé,” Rosen told the Wall Street Journal.
But there will be some typically Rosen touches. For instance, Rosen invited his old friend, artist Jeff Koons, to stop by and “mentor” a group of teenaged artists in order to create a mural on the hotel’s south wall.
The hotel’s guest rooms will feature Scandinavian design and tablets for room service orders.
Rosen tapped prolific restaurateur Stephen Starr to open a “non-pretentious” French restaurant with a “very well-known young chef from France,” according to DNAinfo. That sounds an awful lot like what Rosen has planned for the legendary Philip Johnson-designed Four Seasons space at his Seagram building. Last summer, it was revealed that Rosen was handing the Pool and Grill rooms over to Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, the boys behind the Lower East Side’s Dirty French.
Rosen has always preached a “democratic” approach to big spending and it looks like his latest hotel will be his greatest experiment toward that end.