The old Meier & Frank department store building has kept watch over downtown Portland’s epicentral Pioneer Square since 1908. Exactly 100 years after it was built, a new tenant had taken residence upstairs. Today, guests step through the carefully attended ground-floor front doors and soar with the elevator to the historic building’s seventh floor. Here is the lobby entrance of the top nine levels of the landmark, which together make up the exquisite compilation of art, space and ambiance in the form of luxury accommodations called the Nines.
It’s one of the most freshly minted additions to the big-league Starwood Luxury Collection, whose top-tier hotel network spans the globe from Vienna to Phuket to Dubai. Since its 2008 opening, the Nines has won numerous awards for its painstaking work in renovating architecture constructed over three distinct eras. Carving out a soaring seven-story atrium from the middle of the 15-floor building was only one aspect of the staggering project.
The first thing guests notice about the Nines is that everything is smooth—from the concierge who welcomes you to the Tiffany-blue velvet recamiers in guestrooms to the easy, open flow from one sleekly furnished common area to the next. Mirrors and crystal chandeliers cast fragments of light across the luxe surfaces, and nearly every corner is taken up by pieces of the hotel’s 419-piece commissioned modern art collection. Each of the 331 rooms, for their part, feature original silkscreen prints from professors and students at the nearby Pacific Northwest College of Art.
It’s the kind of place where sleepy, mimosas-at-midmorning types of days feel like the norm. Find them alongside breakfast at full-service eighth-floor restaurant Urban Farmer, or order them from your 24/7 room service menu. Now you’re ready to spend your day exploring downtown Portland—landmarks like Powell’s Books, the Pearl district and Voodoo Donuts are easily walkable—or lounging about the hotel’s airy atrium and cozy library complete with custom billiards table.
By mid-afternoon, jewel-toned curtains start to catch the light of westward-facing windows as the Portland sun sinks low, and the Nines begins to wake up for the evening. Urban Farmer is perfect for a true Portland dinner—it’s where chef Matt Christianson works every day to re-imagine what a modern-day steakhouse can and should be. He’s built a venerable Northwest steak tasting menu, sourced largely from Oregon and accompanied by locally-inspired dishes like butternut squash soup and veal sweetbreads with lobster cannelloni, matsutake and pear. Such strokes of culinary genius are amplified almost poetically by sommelier Dan Mages’ careful pairings and meticulously crafted cocktails from bar manager Josue Moreno. Try some of the barrel-aged offerings, especially the rye-Chartreuse-Luxardo marriage of “Remember the Dame,” before you head upstairs to rooftop restaurant and lounge Departure.
Here is where hip young Portland gathers to sip sake and bask in each others’ swankiness while catching a glimpse of the star-spangled view over downtown from the hotel rooftop. Departure boasts the city’s widest selection of sakes and shochus to match Japanese-inspired cuisine in a maze of brightly lit spaces and dark private alcoves. The music pulsates loudly and the patrons stay up late.
But this is Portland, after all, and trendier still than downtown rooftop bars is going green. The Nines is LEED Silver Certified, relying on 100-percent renewable resources and employing environmentally conscious housekeeping products and conservation-focused plumbing. It doesn’t mean that comfort is sacrificed: the bedding is down, there’s an iPod dock in every room and sheets are 350 thread count, of course.
Still, it’s not all trend-focused: the Nines bills itself as “nostalgic modern” and has the damask wallpaper and bouquets of fresh red roses to back it up. Blue-lined envelopes and vintage-inspired stationary set out carefully on the desk take you back to an era when writing letters was a thing people did on hotel trips. The Nines holds to anecdotes like the time Clark Gable sold ties in the Meier & Frank men’s department in the 1920s before becoming famous, and centers its art collection around items that recall the building’s department-store past. And even with the hotel’s world-class amenities, that nostalgia is what makes the Nines truly Portland—a fond recollection and reincorporation of the past even as it sets the bar in the present.
The Nines || 525 Southwest Morrison Street, Portland || thenines.com
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