How lifestyle movement is driving evolution of hotels
How lifestyle movement is driving evolution of hotels
02 FEBRUARY 2017 8:40 AM

Mixed-use developments, such as urban settings, give today’s hotel guests what they want—a variety of unique experiences. 

Today’s most populous and dominant generation, millennials, continues to redefine the development and hotel industry. This younger generation’s service-oriented lifestyle along with their desire to be active, engaged and have an experience, signifies a tremendous shift in our economy and represents a new “live, work, play” phenomenon that has gripped the country.

Changing consumer demands are leading to more people renting and living in urban areas than buying houses in the suburbs, spending more money at restaurants and bars than grocery stores and are vastly altering the traditional work environment from rows of office cubicles to open collaborative spaces with interactive networking pods.

For the development and hotel industry, we’re continuing to see a change from traditional hotel accommodations in large cities to more mixed-use developments in localized urban areas. Still in the early stages of this movement, we’ll continue to grow and evolve with the changing demographics. For now, let’s take a deeper look at what the trends point to for the future of hotels.

Contribution to mixed-use developments
Today’s guests want to have a special experience when they travel and feel a connection to the area in which they’re staying. Hotels located in mixed-use developments have the unique ability to embody their environment and provide an authentic, curated experience for guests. Surrounded by a community with prime access to local offerings and other amenities like bars, restaurants, shopping and entertainment, mixed-use developments provide guests with a personalized experience that is much different than traditional hotel offerings of today. For the development community, hotels located in these lifestyle centers provide a boost of out-of-town guests driven to the area for the location, experience and activity hub. Bringing “outsiders” into the community, hotels in these centers almost act as a cultural destination for the neighborhood that is open to everyone.

Evolving to meet changing preferences
Many of today’s major hotel companies like Hilton, Marriott and Starwood are creating lifestyle brands and/or embracing the communities in which they’re located to accommodate the changing needs and preferences of today’s guests. Hilton has its Canopy and Curio brands; Marriott has AC Hotels and the Autograph Collection; and Aloft was created by Starwood with the lifestyle traveler in mind.

Successful hotels today allow for more flexible design standards and encourage the localization and authenticity required to effectively personify the specific neighborhoods in which they live. For hotels located in mixed-use developments, their success is in correlation with the overall development—the relationship being symbiotic. The hotel is not tied to a stagnant office park that may grow tired or dated. Retail shops, offices and residents will continue to evolve and change over time with the hotel continually promoting fresh energy and new guests looking to have a personal, authentic experience in the community.

Lifestyle centers in the middle of it all
New mixed-use developments today are focused on lifestyle centers that truly embody the live, work, play movement. They are “cool.” They are unique. These lifestyle centers feature housing, retail, shopping, movie theaters and everyday amenities like grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, bars, around-the-clock entertainment and of course, hotels.

The development of these centers typically focus on the revitalization of neighborhood districts—bringing back to life blighted areas with these all-encompassing communities. Group One Partners is working with CV Properties on just this, a new mixed-use development helping to bring a new community focused around innovation to St Louis.

The Aloft St. Louis is a 150-room hotel located in the energetic 200-acre Cortex Innovation Community, which is part of St. Louis’ historic Central West End and Forest Park neighborhoods. Founded in 2002, Cortex is now leading the city’s growing ecosystem by bringing commercialization and entrepreneurship back to a once neglected area. The location serves as a bridge between the surrounding areas and acts as a vibrant and innovative activity hub boasting superior technological facilities and a diverse population. It’s also in close proximity to local amenities, attractions, transportation and two flagship universities.

Another exciting mixed-use project in development is the Hyatt Place/Hyatt House Dual Brand in the Seaport District of Boston. Group One Partners is working with Hyatt to incorporate nearly 300 dual brand hotel rooms into a larger residential and retail complex set on Boston’s Waterfront. The hotel will be a part of a much larger network of restaurants, housing and retail amenities while being a destination of its own for travelers.

The new normal?
What’s the difference between cities and localized urban areas in the suburbs, and will these lines start to blur? What does the future of these new neighborhoods look like? How are all of these factors changing our environment? There are still many unanswered questions, yet it’s safe to say that hotels in the near future will be forced to shift the way they view the traditional location and design elements of their properties.

That said, hotels will always be a great partner for these type of projects as they provide a destination for travelers to be welcomed into the community, and in turn, the community provides hotel guests with instant access to a ton of amenities and the localized experience they’re craving.

Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, Inc., an award-winning hospitality design firm based in Boston that specializes in architectural, interior design, and purchasing services for hospitality properties. Wheeler is a registered architect in 10 states and a member of numerous architectural, lodging, and marketing associations. For more information visit or email Wheeler at

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