Ari Heckman, principal in Providence’s newest hotel, The Dean, finds the label “boutique hotel,” too limiting for the lodgings being fashioned by his group out of the old Sportsman’s Inn strip club on Fountain Street.
“I don’t like boutique hotel because it sounds like a specific thing,” Heckman said. “Our hypothesis is we are trying to create something that doesn’t exist. This will be something paradoxically high-concept but immediate. The Dean is something for everyone.”
Heckman and three other partners bought the 101-year-old former church shelter-come-gentlemen’s club 18 months ago and since then have been transforming it into an idiosyncratic, design-oriented, small-room hotel.
They’ve removed the stripper poles, plenty of old carpet, linoleum and wall mirrors, replacing them with locally made furnishings that include linens from Matouk in Fall River and bed frames from Nate Nadeau, an artist affiliated with Providence’s Steel Yard.
When The Dean opens this fall, Heckman believes it will attract a clientele that either doesn’t stay in Providence now, couch surfs or rents through websites such as AirBnB.
Although room prices for the Dean haven’t been set, Heckman said they will be lower than anything else currently offered in the city, drawing people who couldn’t normally afford a high-end hotel room.
“We think this will have induced demand,” Heckman said. “It would be an amazing feat to attract people to stay in Providence who wouldn’t otherwise and there is a whole groups of travelers who are attracted to cool hotels.”
Across Rhode Island, hospitality-industry leaders who market their destinations to tourists are hoping Heckman and partners are right.