When the 21-floor Level Hotel opens in Williamsburg, on the corner of Wythe Avenue and North 13th Street, it’ll have a look that’s closer to The Standard, High Line than to the neighboring Wythe Hotel. The owners, Yoel Goldman and Zelig Weiss (Weiss also owns the Condor Hotel in Williamsburg) considered going the red-brick route, but decided against creating “this big giant building and pretending that it was always there” in part because “that’s not what the neighborhood is about,” said Mordy Steinfeld, director of operations and development with Riverside Developers. “It’s about authenticity and creating the space you need for the area you serve.”
Working with architecture firm Albo Liberis, which is also responsible for the work-in-progress Williamsburg Hotel (you know, the one with the water-tower bar) at 96 Wythe Ave, the developers thought about what they wanted the building to achieve: great views for hotel guests, open space for the public to enjoy, office space on the lower levels, and retail on the ground level. In order to create an inviting, open feel on the ground level, the building was put on stilts with what is essentially a bridge supporting the tower.
The hotel will strive to be a community-friendly Goliath, with a 20,000-square-foot park that locals will be welcome to visit. Located on the roof of the ground floor “retail pod,” there will be raised humps of grass for comfy outdoor lounging and lots of shade trees, according to the renderings. The garden is designed specifically with the public in mind, Steinfeld said, adding that there are plenty of other places, including the roof pool deck on the fourth floor, where hotel guests can hang out. There’s potential for people other than guests to use the pool as well, but those plans are still being developed, he said.
“It’s really about people being able to congregate and hang out,” he added. Technically the park is private — “we’re probably going to have to close it in the winter because of all the snow, and it’s not like the parks department is going to come clean it,” Steinfeld said — but the idea is to have it open to the public as much as possible.
The garden/park can be accessed by elevator or two large staircases, one off the 10,000 square foot pedestrian plaza and another off of North 12th Street, a design meant to encourage people to explore. “We’re trying to give an open, approachable experience,” said Steinfeld. “We don’t want people to feel like they don’t belong when they walk in.”
In total the building will house 183 hotel rooms with 25 suites and just under 50,000 square feet of office space. There’s also a 180-capacity restaurant on the ground floor and a restaurant/lounge on the top floor that will accommodate about 140 guests (both are still in development and a chef has yet to be announced). The rooms are designed to be bright and airy, and every room has a balcony and a view, said Steinfeld, adding that it’s “kind of the opposite of what a lot of hotels are doing.”
“It’s not an exclusive bar or club-based thing — more like traditional hospitality, making everyone feel welcome and making sure you have everything you want,” he said.
To connect with the neighborhood, the hotel held a contest for local artists to design the artwork for the lobby. About 200 responses have been narrowed down to three finalists, Ellen Driscoll, Jean Shin and Marela Zacarias, who are in the process of creating detailed proposals.
The hotel plans to reach back into the pool of submissions to commission other artists to make smaller pieces of art, including outdoor sculptures. The eclectic artwork should make the décor more interesting. “Each piece will have a story,” Steinfeld said. “We’re not just buying art in bulk.”
The hotel is scheduled to open by the end of the year. The inclement weather has delayed the progress somewhat, but Steinfeld said it’s still on track to open in early 2016 at the latest.
Of course, not everyone is on board with a new high-rise hotel, especially with the Wythe Hotel and the McCarren Hotel and Pool just down the street, plus the construction of the Williamsburg Hotel. At local Community Board meetings, developers routinely come against criticism for adding to the neighborhood’s late-night noise problems and traffic congestion. At an SLA Committee last month, Steinfeld showed up to make his case for obtaining a liquor license for the hotel but was immediately turned away.
In an unprecedented move on the part of Brooklyn Community Board 1’s SLA Committee, Steinfeld and his team were told the project was too big for the committee to consider — they would have to make a presentation at a full board meeting instead (the Brooklyn Barge Bar was also told they should address the whole board because of the scope of the project). Steinfeld said he hopes he can present the hotel at the community board meeting Tuesday night.
As for the traffic congestion, that’s being addressed with a 140-car garage, which Steinfeld said is more than enough according to a traffic study, which determined the hotel would generate demand for 121 parking spaces on the hotel’s busiest days.
Correction: This post has been edited from its original version to state that the owners of the hotel are Yoel Goldman and Zelig Weiss, and one of the staircases to the garden/park is located off of North 12th Street.