Business How I Did It

Ace Hotel CEO Brad Wilson is Fostering Culture Through Community

The Ace Hotel Group is one of today’s most exciting hospitality brands, attracting everyone from celebrated CEOs to young travellers with big dreams and overloaded laptops. Brad Wilson is the CEO and co-partner of Ace Hotel Group and the brand’s in-house creative agency, Atelier Ace. For him, today’s leading hotels serve not just as a place of room and board, but as destinations for discovery and curiosity that facilitate cultural communion.

Like its counterparts in New York and Los Angeles, Ace Hotel Toronto has quickly become an inspiring communal workplace for creatives, a place to savour one of the city’s best meals, a sexy cocktail-sipping spot, and a culture hub with specialized programming. Marking the brand’s first foray into Canada, the highly anticipated location opened its doors in the summer of 2022 and reflects a clear materialization of Wilson’s vision. 

Meaningful community-building is front and centre for the Ace Hotel Group. “When we opened our first hotel in Seattle, we really saw it as a community and place to bring people together—both visitors and people of the city—to build culture,” says Wilson. “So, we’ve taken the approach that we build for everyone; not just for hotel guests, but for everyone. We really want to invite people into the hotel to develop that kind of cultural exchange, creative hub, and conversation space.” 

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Wilson’s rich history in the hotel industry lead him to this reimagined hotel model. After jobs working with Hilton International, Park Hyatt, and Westin, Wilson helped launch the first W Hotel, becoming Vice President of Operations for W Worldwide. Aesthetically, the idea behind the Ace Hotel brand is to offer a unique residential feel in a meaningfully designed space that offers a perpetual sense of discovery. There’s an element of both luxury and rarity, says Wilson. 

“I would rather have something that’s unique and interesting that somebody’s really thought about than just the same old beige luxury that you see everywhere,” says Wilson. “It’s really special if it actually has a little connection to where you are. If you drop down in a foreign city, you want to feel like you’re part of that city.”

On the community-building front, the idea of creating a cultural hub or using the lobby and public areas of hotels as places of change and discovery is working, says Wilson. At the Ace Hotel Toronto, he says there are “multiple authors” who contribute to the rich overall vibe. This includes everyone from famed chef Patrick Kriss, to local artists and Toronto design studio Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, who designed the conversation-provoking space. 

“We end up having the ability to provide a platform for discovery that can really help to build cultural connections,” says Wilson. “That’s been our approach and I see it more and more with hotels. It’s fun to think that you had an influence in that and that our little steps have made bigger people see it. Over the past 10 years, while we’ve really been growing, more hotels are reacting to the local culture and trying to give people a platform to bring a community into a space to share ideas and foster cultural growth.” 

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