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Cascade Parkway welcomes hip hotel

Daily Journal of Commerce

September 2nd 2008

The large, beige and concrete hotels near the Portland International Airport are far from exotic. Hotel patrons hurry from the airport shuttle to their rooms, attend their business meetings and depart without a second glance at their accommodations.

Enter Harold Pollin, a veteran of the airport hotel market and owner of the Sheraton and Hampton Inn hotels on N.E. Airport Way. After years in the hotel business, he has decided to take a leap of faith on a new hotel and a new brand, the aloft Hotel, with the hopes of attracting the hip, tech-savvy crowd that sees Portland as a new destination for doing business. Only six aloft hotels have opened nationwide since June, and Pollin's is the first in the Pacific Northwest.

"This hotel was designed for the traveler whose lifestyle hasn't been addressed in my market: the young, hip, high-tech, high-energy crowd," said Pollin. "So I decided to take a shot at a new brand I had no experience with because I felt it could be something unique."

The $12 million hotel's entrance, with its dramatic, Technicolor-like canopy and giant letters proclaiming the hotel's name is the first sign that this isn't your ordinary hotel. The aloft brand was created by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and is a division of W Hotels.

Building upon the success of its more upscale W hotels, the aloft was designed to be an alternative to other mid-rate hotels and to appeal to hip, urban, technology-driven guests. Even common hotel amenities such as workout rooms and meeting space were rebranded: the pool is 'splash', the dining area is 'refuel' and the front desk is 'aloha'. Details of the new brand were kept secret, only referring to the project as 'wxyz', which happens to be the name of the aloft's in-house bar.

"The lobby is a playground," said Pollin. "There's a bar, billiards, TVs and a ticker with news and stock information. I see our clientele as interested in socializing instead of going back to the room. They're looking for action."

And the action doesn't stop when guests return to their rooms, said Pollin. Looking more like urban loft studios than hotel rooms, the 136 guest rooms include a king size bed with built-in reading lamps and closet storage on the back side, computer hookups that display the computer's screen on the room's flat screen TV, and oversized walk-in showers. The hotel is awash in color, with deep greens and royal purples in the rooms and rainbow-colored light coverings down each hallway.

"The rooms have character, said Pollin. "They are small, but have everything you need."

Besides the uniqueness of the hotel itself, Pollin is banking on proximity to the airport for a constant stream of guests. He expects his guests to be mostly transient corporate travelers.

"I'm familiar with the airport market," said Pollin. "It has the most consistent potential for business; the airport isn't going anywhere."

And being right on the MAX line and near expanding retail center Cascade Station doesn't hurt either.

"It's an ideal location," said Pollin. "It's easy to get to and easy to get out of. People won't need to spend money renting a car. The MAX line was very influential in my site selection."

Watching a plane approaching the PDX runway from high above, Pollin smiled and said, "I think the aloft name really works well for an airport."

The aloft Hotel will open Sept. 15. It was constructed by P&C Construction and designed by Myhre Group Architects. Its rooms will retail for $120 per day.