Portland's Ace Hotel may've been dubbed the "most original new hotel" in America by The New York Times last spring, but shiny, new $137 million project the Nines—nine floors of hotel perched high above downtown's nearly 100-year-old Meier & Frank Building—might just give the Ace a run for its title. That's because everywhere you look in this economy-ignoring behemoth, which opened to the public last week, are original takes on the upscale hotel-stay concept. And why should you, a local who already has a bed to call your own, care? Well, even if you're not staying in the Presidential Suite (the most spendy in town at $2,000 a night) or dining on foie gras tater tots at Urban Farmer, the hotel's sustainable steakhouse, the lengths to which the Nines' creators have gone to make this hotel more luxurious, more modern and, curiously enough, more Portland are impressive. "The Nines was driven [by] the respect we had for the Meier & Frank building, the history that took place inside those four walls, and the opportunity to be able to bring it back to life," says Sage Hospitality Chief Operating Officer Peter Karpinski. Without further ado, we give you nine things you need to know about the Nines. (Click photos for an expansive view)
1. There are 419 pieces of commissioned contemporary art displayed throughout the hotel, including cartoons by WW's own John Callahan and six photos by film director Gus Van Sant in the library. Curated by art aficionado Paige Powell, the theme "dressed to the Nines" is carried throughout much of the artwork, all from local artists. Among them, Storm Tharp created a portrait of screen legend Clark Gable, who once sold ties downstairs at Meier & Frank, according to legend.
2. Ned Elliott, formerly of Genoa, isn't the only celebrity in the kitchen. His wife, pastry chef Jodi Elliott, is joined by pastry-maker Sean Sasser—whom you might remember from his compelling appearance on MTV's The Real World: San Francisco. Sasser's partner is the new director of the Cascade AIDS Project, Michael Kaplan.
4. As for matters of the heart, there are "Intimacy Kits" located in every minibar, containing "all your romance needs." And Executive Chef Ned Elliott's beef tartare is made from raw beef heart. Hospitality Chief Peter Karpinski said it was hard to find beef hearts for their star starter. "The only business that was asking for beef hearts was the Oregon prison system," says Karpinski, who later found a local farmer to fit his offal request.
6. There are suites throughout the hotel, but the ultra-exclusive "Club Floor" (the 12th floor) has its own entrance and concierge. At the Club Lounge, Club Floor guests can get their grub on four times a day, when staff rolls out free food and bevvies. And then there's the comped cocktails—free all day, every day. Hell, when you factor it out, maybe the hotel life's not such a bad deal after all.
7. The 20-foot-long communal table located in the middle of Urban Farmer is the third cut on a 400-year-old Doug fir. Salvaged off the shores of British Columbia, it was originally used as part of a bunkhouse raft for seamen. After the raft was retired, the wood was reclaimed and milled into strips. The table was then handcrafted by local artist James Reisen (luckydumpster.blogspot.com).
9. The cozy, wood-paneled library, just a few feet away from Urban Farmer, features games, a pool table and 6,000 tomes from Powell's—including a naughty erotica section—hand-picked by designer David Ashen. The red wagon near the door comes courtesy of Pink Martini piano man Thomas Lauderdale, who left it there after dropping off a wagonload of Oregon-themed books.