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LUXURY HOTELS: American Trade Hotel and Hall, Panama City, Panama
If we had to put one country top of our list for 2014 'Hot Destinations' it would be Panama. So it is no surprise then that one of the first hoteliers to see the potential is Alex Calderwood, co-founder of the innovative Ace Hotels. When it opens next month (December) the American Trade Hotel and Hall will be Calderwood's most up-market and luxurious offering.  Previously Calderwood's market has been more hipster-cool than ultra-luxe. This hotel is different, which may be why it won't actually be branded as an Ace.
The 50-room property has been lovingly created out of a restored landmark building in Casco Viejo.  What it has in common with other Ace offering is that location is all.
Calderwood has the art of finding buildings in central locations that often straddle the edgy and the conventional. Here the new property lies between the historic old town, a UNESCO World heritage site dating back to 1673, and the new Panama City.  It is also a seaside suburb with the hotel only blocks from the beach and within easy access of the natural wild wonders of Panama; "at the ecological and cultural crossroads of the Americas" says the blurb.
The dream is that the hotel will become a meeting place for 'influencers, creatives and culture-seekers from around the world". Knowing Alex Calderwood's magic touch, we are sure it will.

American Trade Hotel and Hall

'Casco reminds me of old Havana," says Calderwood. 'It has this beautiful 16th-, 17th- and 18th- century building, some restored, some in despair - and there's a buzz, an excitement here'.
The American Trade Hotel and Hall hotel is the result of a joint venture between Atelier Ace, the panama City-based Conservatorio and Commune Design, the design firm which created Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs. Conservatorio are responsible for restoring Canal House, the first high-end hotel built in the Casco Antiguo since the 1920s and the beautiful boutique Las Clementinas.

The original American Trade building, built in 1917, was designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the most prominent twentieth century architect in Panama City. It is often referred to as Panama's first skyscraper because at its time it was the country's tallest building and only the second to have an elevator.
The name is inspired by the fact that the building was once a department store called  the American Trade  Company  (a business which was co-incidentally owned by the great, great grandfather of one of the current developers), where wealthy Panamanians and expats could once score high-end American-made products.

American Trade Hotel and Hall, Panama City

In 1920 upper levels were added and which housed offices and luxury apartments. Historians have labelled the building 'quirky' due it strange mix of architectural features with 'a unique blend has energy inextricable from the ambitious, adolescent period that inspired it. Perfect for Ace hotels then.

All Ace enterprises have to have an edge ('edgy' is a much-used Calderwood word), so it also fits the bill that after its rich heyday the building later became a hangout for an infamous street gang, Los Hijos Pródigos.
Another nice touch of history is the fact that The hotel's ballroom and event space  is housed in a neighbouring Art Deco building  (the 'and hall' part of the hotel's name) that was once the Panamanian headquarters of  the First National City Bank of New York which helped finance the Panama Canal.
 
In addition to the ballroom there is also a jazz bar, a restaurant specialising in local produce, a rooftop deck and pool. As aficionados of the brand know, no Ace hotel could launch without offering a decent cup of coffee - in this case Panamanian beans will be roasted and brewed on-site.
Reservations can be booked from January of 2014.  keeping the club-feel of other Ace offerings  guests can sign up  to join  American Trade Club and  receive special offers  available exclusively to ATC members and" to stay abreast of all American Trade Hotel phenomena, happenings and curiosities'. We like a good 'happening'.
The hotel is the first non-brand independent addition to Atelier Ace's portfolio - but watch this space luxe-lovers, there is more to come.
Luxury Hotels Link:  www.americantradehotel.com/en/
Posted 4/11/13
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