As the U.N. has declared 2017 as the international year of sustainable tourism, it is only fitting that my first review this year would be the eco-focused 1 Hotel in South Beach. Housed in the former space Gansevoort Hotel, the South Beach hotel opened in March 2015 as the first hotel of the new 1 Hotels brand founded by Barry Sternlight, former Chairman and CEO of Starwood Hotels. This new lifestyle brand is creating something truly exciting with the mission to be the ‘ultimate eco-focused’ hotel with a low carbon-footprint – taking eco-consciousness to a level that I’ve only seen myself employed at boutique safari lodges in Kenya and Tanzania. And they are doing it an away that makes it hip and trendy.
Mind you, to execute such a concept is no easy task. It was a massive undertaking to develop the South Beach hotel, costing $500 Million along with thoughtful design and implementation.
When we had an opportunity for a quick family trip over MLK weekend to Miami, I set my sights instantly on this 425-room hotel, eager to see what it was all about. I’ve stayed in South Beach several times before on girl weekends at the Setai, W and Shore Club along Collins Avenue but this would be the first time visiting with my family and I was not altogether sure if South Beach was going to be ‘family-friendly’. But I was won over by the whole concept of the hotel and the fact that this beach-front property had four pools. I found the room rates more reasonable than some other luxury neighboring properties on the strip such as the Faena, Soho House, and Edition.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were greeted warmly by attendants at the front entrance and hosts at the front desk and check-in was a quick and easy (and most notably, paperless) process. I instantly loved the Zen-like lobby accessorized with bleached driftwood, oak and teaks and furnishings in varying shades of ivory. The airy light-filled interiors with plants and terrariums nestled throughout set a calming tone and is a refreshing change from the art-deco and club-like lobbies you typically see in other hotels in South Beach. People were lounging on the couches listening to live music as we passed by (there was live music each night). We were introduced to the elevator system which requires you to take a recycled wood chip that is your guest key and tap it to be assigned an elevator. It took a bit to get used to this but it is really an efficient system. If only we didn’t lose these small, round keys so many times during our stay. I just found one in one of my pockets, two days after I returned home!
Seeing pictures of the accommodations prior to our stay, I had booked a 1-bedroom suite for our family. We were thus surprised when we were shown to a much smaller suite than we expected – nothing at all like the photos on the website. While we were upgraded to a suite with a balcony with partial ocean views, it was obvious this confining layout would not suffice for our stay (in addition, we were told we would need to pay $100 per cot for each child). After a pleasant conversation with the hotel manager, we were offered a different suite in the same category. We were much happier when we moved to a much more spacious and inviting corner suite with kitchenette. Our corner unit #423 had a generous living area with 1 1/2 baths, floor-to-ceiling windows (2 sides in the spacious master bedroom), a terrace and a small open kitchen with Nespresso maker, water filter/tap and flat screen TVs in both the living room and bedroom – perfect for a family of four. The same design aesthetic was carried over from the lobby. The master bath had a long teak vanity with concrete trough sink (although not much room for cosmetics and such) and a wonder rainfall shower. Although we didn’t have an ocean view, we were delighted with our new setup (similar to the photos below).
We only had two full days to acquaint ourselves with the hotel and honestly needed a lot more time to thoroughly investigate what the 1 Hotel had to offer. The hotel impressively occupies a full city block although it never felt massive. Only when I was strolling on the beach looking back at the hotel from a short distance, could I get a sense of how expansive the 425-room/155-residence hotel truly is.
At the Lobby level, you have a wonderful Tom Colicchio farm-to-table restaurant Beachcraft that also serves delicious continental and buffet breakfasts (included with our rate). We had dinner the first night by the restaurant’s open kitchen and everything was delicious. Unfortunately we were paired with a server an attitude who was more interested in himself than us. I’m happy to say that was an exception to the rule as the hotel’s staff was otherwise extremely friendly, eager to engage and accommodating during our stay – whether at breakfast, the pool or front entrance. You also have two boutiques (Big Drop being one of them) and lobby bar Tom on Collins, an inviting area to lounge with live music in the evenings.
During the day, fresh fruit from local farms is offered daily and complimentary from the Farm Stand. Right across, café Nativ Made, serving light bites, juices and coffees, is particularly busy in the mornings post-pre workouts. Instead of the typical gift shop, Plant The Future store features terrariums, plantings and moss wall art that I wanted to take home with me. I was particularly happy to see (and others were too, judging by the logo outfits in the lobby) a Soul Cycle studio onsite. Lastly is the popular eatery STK where Sasha Obama visited (along with her secret service) during our stay. And this is just in the lobby!
On the 2rd floor, guests will find the 24-hour 14,000 square foot Spartan Gym (available only to guests) featuring Peloton bikes and classes, and the newly opened Bamford Haybarn Spa, the first U.S. offspring of the delightful English country holistic spa brand. Sadly, I was too limited in time to go to either other than to take a quick peek inside.
The 3rd floor is pretty much the outdoor hub of the hotel (particularly for guests with children) – this is where you access the beach club and three of the four hotel pools along with the myriad cabanas, daybeds (which also purposed as diving boards for the kids when not occupied!) and lounge chaises. The Sandbox, the poolside cantina, serves up excellent tacos, guacamole and cocktails. We saw equal amounts of champagne in ice buckets as we did ice teas and waters besides lounging guests. Additionally, there is a small beach boutique (teen daughter-approved) and Seedlings kids club for the younger set (younger daughter-approved). The whole area is generously laid out and only steps away from the beach and private hotel beach club. A running path along the length of this strip was perfect for a morning run.
You will find the hotel’s fourth pool on the rooftop – one of the signature spots of the 1 Hotel – along with a very good (so I’m told) seafood and sushi restaurant, Watr, and bar. Note: the rooftop is open to guests only 21 and over. I tried unsuccessfully to sneak my 13-year old in but no dice. Next time.
Our whole family equally loved the look, vibe and energy of the 1 Hotel – it was hip for sure but not overly so that any guest would feel out of place. I loved that the hotel partnered with specialty brands (Soul Cycle, Spartan, Bamford Haybarn etc.) inside the hotel, each unique in their category. You can stay here for a long weekend and never feel the need to leave with so many excellent options at your disposal.
But let’s get back to 1 Hotel’s eco-consciousness because to me this is truly what sets this hotel apart from others. It’s not treated just as a term to proudly boast on their website or press materials but put into action everywhere you are as a guest. In your room, not a plastic or piece of paper is in sight. Instead you will find cardboard hangers, reclaimed wood keys, reusable socks instead of slippers, ‘Do not disturb’ signs made out of cardboard boxes, chalk notepads on the nightstands, and large toiletry dispensers (instead of the small bottles we are all used to and often steal!) in the bathroom. Triple clear water filters in the kitchen replace plastic water bottles you typically would find on your nightstand. A mobile ‘1’ guide’ serves as both an in-room ‘do it all’ (ie. thermostat, TV) and a communications tool with hotel staff. I am still old-fashioned in this respect and never used it – instead sticking to the remote control and phone.
In the public spaces, the thought and care is evident as well – from the 3,000 foot ‘living’ wall of 11,000 green plants at the front entrance to the fleet of Tesla electric vehicles standing by which guests can use for a 3-mile radius (ironically placed next to two Ferraris I saw out front – a bit of an oxymoron). Ceilings, walls and furniture are made from reclaimed and salvaged wood and terrariums and plants are placed throughout instead of cut flowers.
All this really made me aware of how much waste there is in the hotel industry and how it can and needs to do better. While plenty of luxury hotels are ‘eco-friendly’ (more and more I’m pleased to say), they are not necessarily eco-focused. I hope the new 1 Hotel brand will serve as a model and source for inspiration for other properties to follow. Sternlicht’s vision for 1 Hotels to be places ‘to celebrate and protect nature’ has already extended beyond South Beach with the recent opening of the 1 Hotel Central Park in Manhattan and a 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (in the former Domino Sugar factory) to open next month. 12 more locations are in the pipeline. It’s simply time be more green and help protect our planet.
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1 Hotel South Beach
2341 Collins Avenue, Miami FLBook This Hotel
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