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Kor Hotel Group brings contemporary cool to Vancouver

By: By Joanne Blain

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There is nothing brash or showy about the Loden Vancouver hotel, including the front entrance. It’s so understated that if you blink at the wrong moment, you might drive right past it.

A discreet sign beside a massive set of wooden doors is the only clue that you’ve arrived at one of downtown Vancouver’s newest boutique hotels, which opened in mid-October of last year.

Loden Vancouver’s guestrooms are contemporary and elegant // (c) 2009

Loden Vancouver’s guestrooms are
contemporary and elegant

Even general manager Edel Forristal admits the entrance may be a little too understated, so a bit more street presence was on her to-do list.

But the hotel’s relaxed and low-key vibe is not about to change. Forristal said the Loden Vancouver hotel was designed for visitors “who enjoy an atmosphere that is more residential and more intimate” than what is offered by larger hotels.

Even in the public areas of the hotel, she said, “you see people wandering around with a cup of coffee — really, they treat the whole lobby like it’s their living room. And that’s exactly what we want. It’s meant to feel friendly and warm.”

The 77-room Loden Vancouver, part of the Los Angeles-based Kor Hotel Group, was designed to appeal to business travelers who put more stock in personal attention and style than in amenities like swimming pools and full-service spas. The Loden has neither a pool nor a spa, although it does have a BeFit fitness studio, in-room spa services and a separate spa suite with a sauna. It also offers 24-hour concierge and room service, plus complimentary in-room Internet access and an iPod docking station. Of its 77 rooms, six are one-bedroom suites and one is a 1,600 square-foot, two bedroom Halo penthouse with both indoor and outdoor entertaining and dining areas.

In addition to ambience, many guests are bound to be drawn to the hotel’s interiors, created by the award-winning San Francisco design firm BAMO, Inc. There is nothing bland or boring here — from bottom to top, the Loden Vancouver exudes hip, post-modern style.

The otherwise understated lobby gets a hit of drama from a double-sided zebra-patterned onyx fireplace that also fronts into the lounge of the 80-seat Voya Restaurant & Lounge, which is headed by top local chef Marc-Andre Choquette. There, three massive, round chandeliers echo the 1960’s-inspired circular panels above a long wall of banquettes. The cuisine fuses French and Asian flavors with Choquette’s sous-vide (low-temperature) method of cooking.

In the compact, but comfortable, guestrooms, a chocolate-brown marble floor segues into boldly patterned carpeting, set off by a punchy orange velvet chaise and sleek Scandinavian-style wood cabinets.

Adding an uber-cool touch is a sliding wall that lets you open up the streamlined bathroom to the sleeping area. If your clients are so inclined, they can even listen to music or tune into the 42-inch, flat-screen television while lounging in the deep soaking tub — the bathroom has its own controls for the in-room sound system.

The Loden Vancouver is located within a few blocks of Robson Street, Vancouver’s retail mecca, as well as the city’s business district, waterfront and convention and exhibition center. Given that proximity, it is remarkable how quiet the area around the hotel is — once the evening rush hour is over, car and pedestrian traffic slow to a trickle. It’s one of the perks of being in the Coal Harbour area, on the outskirts of the downtown core.

One thing guests should not expect, however, are the kind of expansive views one would expect in a waterfront hotel. If you do want a slice of a water or mountain view, Forristal suggested asking for an upper-floor room ending in “06” or “07.”

It’s been a long wait for the Loden Vancouver to open its doors: The hotel was originally slated to debut in summer of 2007. The Kor Hotel Group decided, however, to delay its second phase of development, prompting a redesign of the entire project.

Unfortunately, the opening coincided with the start of a worldwide economic slump — not the best time, one would think, to launch a luxury hotel. But Forristal put a positive spin on the situation.

“The luxury market tends to weather economic storms fairly well,” she said.

Even though many companies may be trimming their travel budgets, Forristal believes CEOs and top executives will continue to travel — particularly to Vancouver, which is less than a year away from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics.

As well, Forristal thinks the fact that the Loden Vancouver is new, unique and generating buzz will draw visitors away from more established Vancouver hotels. And, if the lounge and restaurant — both packed on a Friday night soon after opening day — were any indication, she might be onto something.