Reviewed by Ron Bernthal
I was eager to stay at Indianapolis’ newest hotel, a beautifully designed “art” hotel that opened its doors at the end of January, 2013. The property includes 157 guestrooms and suites and 52 one- and two-bedroom residential suites in a connecting building. The hotel is named after Alexander Ralston, an engineer and architect who designed the city’s urban master plan in 1820, and the designers who created this 21st century beauty have placed the property in a redeveloped downtown neighborhood which is now called CityWay. Close to sports, cultural and dining venues downtown, the taxi ride from the airport to the hotel’s entrance was just 20 minutes. The front desk is located on the second floor, where a spacious lobby (and the entire hotel) is decorated with art curated by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Check-in was quick and efficient, and I was in my 6th floor room within ten minutes of arrival.
My room was just two months old when I arrived and, as expected, it was in perfect shape. The carpeting under the bed was clean and unblemished, the dark oak floor in the rest of the room was glossy and free of scruff marks, my “California King” mattress was firm, the white bed linens starched and perfectly fitted. There were no cracks in the wall joints or chipped bathroom fixtures. Several modern lighting fixtures were chrome and beautifully designed, especially the recessed bedside lights, which flipped out from the wall with the push of hidden lever. A 42″ flat-screen TV had a swivel base, making it visible from bed or desk. Complimentary Wi-Fi is in the rooms and throughout the hotel.
The prints and photos in my guest room were lovely, and a hotel booklet left on the desk stated that 275 works of guest room art was supplied by the New York-based art retailer 20×200, including works by William Wegman, Lawrence Weiner, and Amy Stein. Many of the rooms, mine included, also featured pairings of inkjet photo prints from Andrew Bordwin’s series, A Fractured Travel Guide to Indianapolis.
The view from my large bedroom window was not as exciting or beautiful as the hotel – I overlooked the parking lot and headquarters of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Although the view may not be scenic, the hotel’s proximity to Indy corporations like Lilly, Rolls Royce, WellPoint and others help fill The Alexander’s guestrooms, meeting facilities and dining venues. I also was able to see Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL Colts, just a five minute walk away.
The second floor bar/lounge, called Plat 99 (the hotel’s site in Ralston’s early city map), is the centerpiece of the hotel’s art program, and was designed by Jorge Pardo, a Cuban-born MacArthur “genius grant” artist. The floors and columns are made of painted concrete block tiles, handmade in Mexico, and there are 99 hanging lamps in vibrant yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, and green hues. The lounge serves artisanal cocktails and small plates with charcuterie and artisan cheeses. Cerulean is the hotel’s ground floor restaurant, with an innovative bento box concept for lunch and good farm-to-table local produce for casual dinners. I enjoyed the breakfasts at Market Table, a Euro-styled venue with gorgeous fruits and vegetables in baskets, laid out in cold display cases as in a gourmet grocery store. Made-to-order hot breakfasts, fresh orange juice, cold smoked salmon, organic teas and homemade bread and pastries are part of the extensive buffet.
More than 50 works of art, by more than 25 contemporary artists, are installed in the hotel’s public spaces, all curated by IMA’s Contemporary Art department. Although The Alexander is not the first hotel in the country to sell itself on the strength of its art (21C in Louisville is another), it may be the first to have so much curated art distributed throughout the entire property, including on every floor’s elevator landing, in the parking garage, and in the second-floor women’s restroom.
The property also has a great location, situated between the eclectic Fountain Square entertainment neighborhood and center city’s Monument Circle. It is within a ten minute walk to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, (NBA’s Indiana Pacers), Lucas Oil Stadium (NFL’s Colts) and Victory Field (minor league Indianapolis Indians). Also nearby is the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of and Western Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Complimentary bicycles are available to guests, don’t miss cruising the city’s Cultural Bike Trail, an eight-mile path through the city that goes right by the hotel.
Business travelers and corporate groups will love the hotel’s conference facilities, which include The Alexander Ballroom, the Ralston Penthouse Boardroom, 12 additional meeting and breakout rooms and a 2,400 square-foot outdoor terrace.
The Alexander, part of Dolce Hotels and Resorts, became a trendy gathering spot for local residents and a stylish hotel for business travelers as soon as its doors opened. This new property has all the sophistication and good looks of the world’s top hotels, but I’m not sure how many others can match the down-home friendliness of the Indiana-born staff that open the front doors, check-in guests, and serve the food and drinks.
333 South Delaware Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317 624 8200