The James New York pays homage to a neighborhood’s creative past while adding to its modern edge.
By Michael M. Clements
Photos by Anchyi Wei
The modern concrete and glass facade of The James New York rises like an anomaly over the aging buildings near the intersection of Grand and Avenue of the Americas in SoHo. In the parlance of film, the raw 14-story tower is a scene-stealer. Don’t let the Spartan exterior fool you – the property is teeming with hidden gems, including a hip social scene, unobstructed city views, a farm-to-table restaurant, contemporary art collections and all the buzz one would expect from a creatively-inspired SoHo hotel.
The James isn’t a paper-thin 15-room Asian-fusion boutique property – the 114 guestrooms have a modern, residential feel. They feature custom-designed furnishings and environmentally conscious touches such as reclaimed wood floors, eco-friendly pillows and rugs made from all-natural fibers. The overall aesthetic playfully bridges technology and art – the screen on the floor-to-ceiling glass bathroom partition, for example, features the outline of a tree designed entirely of computer code. The foyer centerpiece is a custom-created installation comprised of thousands of recycled computer keyboard keys arranged in a mosaic. Artistic unanimity is the property’s most redeeming quality. The entire collection was curated with works from local and emerging artists, whose touches are evident from the whimsical room numbers to the one-of-a-kind textiles and light fixtures.
The largest room is the 1,300 square foot penthouse – but who is going to sleep much with Tribeca and SoHo at your doorstep? Start with brunch. Walk a block or two and find a quaint bistro for omelettes, cappuccino and people watching. Afterwards, put on your best tweed hat and borrow one of the hotel’s retro orange bicycles. The Hudson River Greenway alongside the West Side Parkway is two blocks away. You can peddle south along the water to the Ground Zero Memorial or head north past the Meatpacking District to tour the Intrepid. Throughout, soak in views of the Hudson and the New York skyline. Catching a cab is so passé.
After your two-wheel spin, head up to Jimmy, the hotel’s envious rooftop lounge and pool bar. You won’t do any laps in this tiny pool but you’ll definitely want to lap up the specialty cocktails, DJs and trendy mix of travelers and locals, who consider this their secret urban oasis. After a poolside chill and some scenester facetime, shower up and head to David Burke Kitchen for dinner (be sure to make your reservation when you book your room).
The restaurant focuses on wholesome, unique and modern American food presented in the creative and whimsical style that is Burke’s trademark. In short, the room feels like a barn and the walls are decorated photographs of farmers in sweatshirts and tennis shoes posing with animals. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week this is not, but the city/country juxtapose is part of the restaurant’s charm, as well as the menu; ergo, the starter “Ants on a Log” with bone marrow, snails, parsley and garlic; the “Bison Tartare;” and signature “Pretzel Crab Cakes” with tomato orange and green peppercorn.
After dinner, hang out in the Tree House Bar perched over Sixth Avenue or the 100-seat botanical-themed Garden Bar & Restaurant. In the spring and summer, this open-air lounge is filled with sophisticated jet set types enjoying breezy Manhattan moments. At the witching hour, ask the concierge to get you back into Jimmy. The DJ will still be spinning and the bathing beauties and their buff suitors will have slipped into something sleek and sexy to imbibe speakeasy cocktails in a rarified VIP realm while congratulating themselves for avoiding Chelsea and flocks of 20-somethings dancing on tables.
Finally, settle in for the night with an epic floor-to-ceiling view of the sunrise over Manhattan and rest well knowing there will be plenty of others rolling into brunch tomorrow with fashionable sunglasses hiding tired eyes – SoHo wouldn’t want it any other way.