Aloft, one of Starwood Hotel’s boutique lodgings, opens in New York City’s Harlem later this month, it will be the first hotel to open in the neighborhood in over 40 years.
According to the Associated Press, Harlem already serves as a major destination in New York City, and tourism experts believe the opening of the new hotel will increase its popularity and encourage people to extend their stays.
“Instead of just going up to visit Harlem, you can stay in Harlem,” George Fertitta, head of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism and marketing agency, told the AP.
Aloft, owned by Starwood Boutique Hotels, is among several new hotels to open in New York since 2007. Other companies had indicated an interest in opening Harlem locations but were deterred by the recession, according to city planners.
The city’s Big Apple Greeter, which offers free tours for visitors, gets more requests for Harlem than any other section in the city except Greenwich Village. The neighborhood’s famous Apollo Theater draws 2.5 million visitors a year for tours and its famed Amateur Night.
The defunct Hotel Theresa, which stands near the Apollo, now houses various offices. The establishment, which officially closed its doors in 1967, served as a haven for prominent Blacks at a time when they weren’t welcome in other New York City hotels.
“Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald—all these people would come to the Theresa when there wasn’t an option to go downtown,” William Gibbons, a teacher in Harlem, told the AP. “In its heyday at the Theresa, on any given day, Joe Louis would be in the bar having a drink. Malcolm X was visiting Muhammad Ali.”
But desegregation and a rise in crime in the area led to that establishment’s demise. Today, the neighborhood is undergoing massive gentrification, which some believe will be good for the area.
“I believe it’ll be a good idea, more business and more jobs for the community,” Sherlie Davis, a Harlem resident told the New York Post in 2007 during the initial announcement of new hotels planned for the area.
But some disagree with the plans, claiming it will take away the culture of the neighborhood. “That’s not Harlem. Harlem was a soulful place. It’s taking away from the poor,” Saba Unogen, 50, a 125th Street resident, told The New York Post.
Aloft employees intend to recapture the feel of the Theresa. In addition to their other duties such as check-in, customer service and bartending, they are also required to write and perform a song as a team-building exercise.