A Resort in the Middle of the City
- Nov. 18 2014 00:00
Doubletree by Hilton provides outdoor relaxation and recreation within the city limits.
When guests walk into a hotel, they want everything to be functional, clean, and convenient. They notice the décor and have an opinion — usually a strong opinion — about the restaurant. They know exactly what they want in a business center and have preferences for the gym.
Travelers think about everything in a hotel, but they almost never think about how the hotel came into being. There's a story behind it, and if the hotel is in Russia, chances are it's a long story.
So it is with Moscow's new Doubletree by Hilton. It opened in September 2014, but the idea for the hotel appeared almost a decade ago. The idea came to a group of investors including Anton Dolotin, one of the hotel's shareholders. He is also one of the co-founders and owners of the Royal Yacht Club on the Khimki Reservoir, next to Vodny Stadion. The club has a marina for 100 yachts and a celebrated Arkady Novikov restaurant, Vodny. When a parcel of land next to the club became available, Dolotin recommended it as a great site for a hotel. He was charged with overseeing the project.By the time the project was ready to go, it was right after the 2008 crisis. In an interview to The Moscow Times, Dolotin said, "We knew that according to company rules, European managers had to stay in four-star hotels, so we wanted a four-star brand. And there were a lot of brands to choose from. We talked with everyone, but each brand already had their own image in Moscow. We wanted something new."
In the end, the investors chose Doubletree by Hilton, in part because it was new to the Russian market. "With this brand we had more freedom," Dolotin said. "I knew that I could be creative."
The original design for the land parcel — an L-shaped main building surrounding two oval structures -- was done by the British architectural firm Fox Linton and then fully articulated by a group of young architects in the Russian firm, Front Architecture. The shape of the buildings and their placement tie together the Royal Yacht Club and Vodny Stadion and create an unexpected mini-park and waterfront right off one of Moscow's main highways, Leningradskoye Shosse.
The other draw of the Doubletree brand for Dolotin and his group of investors was using Russian materials and furnishings whenever possible, which turned out to be "cheaper and faster — and besides, it was nice to do something for the homeland."
It was, however, difficult identifying Russian companies that could do the work. "For beds, we went around to small production houses — the kind that made kitchen corner units. We gave one company the design and good fabric, and they were able to do a great job." The trick to getting everything just right was simple. "We were very hands-on," Dolotin said. "For five years we had a design meeting every week. It was an important event — we discussed everything. What kind of lamps should be in the rooms? Where could they be produced? In the end, about 70 percent of the hotel's furnishings were made here in Russia."
But the hardest part of the project had nothing to do with creative decision-making. Dolotin explained, "When Mayor Yuri Luzhkov left, the city did a review of all the open contracts, and it took forever. For three years work stopped while we prepared papers and documents. The bureaucracy was awful."
The result of the team's 10 years' of persistence and personal involvement is a warm and inviting hotel — you can enjoy your check-in chocolate chip cookie by the lobby fireplace — with nearly 300 rooms, a full-service business center, a 24-hour fitness center and pool. A spa with hammam and sauna is set to open early next year. Off the lobby is the Artяшок restaurant, designed by the prominent English architect Martin Hulbert, where chef Roman Tomyshev serves an international menu. The hotel also offers over 14,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, including a pillar-less ballroom and an outdoor piazza.
Even though the hotel was designed to serve Moscow's business community, Dolotin has a different dream. With the Royal Yacht Club, Beach Club swim center and Vodny Stadion next door, Dolotin would like the hotel to draw local families for the weekend. "It's on the Khimki Reservoir, and there are miles of bike trails — people can come for the weekend, rent a bike, go to the beach… I'd like it to be a country resort in the middle of the city."