Last night at Luna’s first New York City gig in 10 years — an outdoor show at Northside Festival, off of McCarren Park — one of the guys pointed to a concrete tower rising near the Williamsburg waterfront and directed everyone’s attention to “the PanAm building.” Or was it the MetLife building? The behemoth rising above Wythe Avenue is actually the William Vale hotel, slated for completion early next year. Though it currently stands at less than half its expected height, it’s already pretty impressive. And it’s even more dizzying up close, as we saw during a recent hard-hat tour. From its ginormous basement ballroom to the offices overlooking the longest rooftop hotel pool in New York City, we got the inside look at Williamsburg’s new luxury hotel.
The $120 million project will house 183 hotel rooms that will likely go for around $400 per night, according to the hotel’s general manager, Sebastien Maingourd. With a “porous” design, the William Vale’s owners, Yoel Goldman and Zelig Weiss, are hoping to foster an inviting atmosphere that will make non-guests feel welcome. There’s a walkway cutting through the ground floor lobby, from which two grand staircases lead to an elevated garden where the public will be encouraged to have lunch or enjoy a cup of coffee.
Maingourd said Brooklyn has been very successful at marketing what he calls “industrial chic” (we’re looking at you, hotel with a water-tower bar), but the William Vale has opted to take a different route. “Here it’s more modern; it’s moving forward,” he said. “Brooklyn is ready for the hotel it deserves, meaning let’s go upscale. It’s a new, quality experience that doesn’t exist in Brooklyn, but at the same time [the owners] thought, ‘Let’s make it accessible to the neighborhood.’” The inclusive nature of the hotel is a concept that’s not often seen in New York City, Maingourd said: “It’s more like a resort approach, where you could stay all day without being bored or wanting something else.”
To that end, there are 20,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and cellar level. Nothing is finalized, but the hotel has had offers and is currently in negotiations with retailers. The hotel is mainly interested in shops offering high-end items like jewelry and clothing, as well as businesses like spas that will add to the resort-like feel.
With its multiple boardrooms and four floors of offices, the hotel should be ideal for business meetings and conferences. On the other hand, the developers are hoping tourists will respond to its luxurious atmosphere. “It’s unbelievable to see the proliferation of tourists from Europe,” Maingourd said. Being from France, he said he understands Europeans’ attraction to Brooklyn. “We feel very comfortable in this kind of neighborhood,” he said. “It’s human-sized and nonstandard. We find it very charismatic.”
There are about 80 people working at the construction site every day, most of them hired from local construction companies, according to Maingourd. One of the advantages of being the tallest building around are the unobstructed views, and the hotel plans to capitalize on that with private balconies off all the hotel rooms.
The basement level ballroom will accommodate 270 guests. “Space is kind of tight for functions in Manhattan, so why not do it here? Union Square is only three subway stops away,” Maingourd pointed out.
The hotel recently changed its name from the Level Hotel to the William Vale as a nod to the neighborhood’s history. Though most people probably haven’t heard of Vale, he’s a farmer who in the 19th Century owned the land at 55 Wythe Avenue, where the hotel now sits. “Level Hotel was too city,” said Maingourd. “It was not special enough. It’s a new experience and something that hasn’t been done, so we wanted something more meaningful.”