‘Natural fit' in Australia for hotel operator focused on sustainability
The 18-level Seafarers development is now under construction.

‘Natural fit' in Australia for hotel operator focused on sustainability

SH Hotels & Resorts, which lays claim to being the world’s most sustainable hospitality operator, will open at least two more of its landmark 1 Hotels in Australia over the coming years as part of plans to operate 25 of these hotels globally by 2025.

“We’ll possibly make an announcement [on a second hotel] in Australia in the next 120 days. We’re close on something,” chief executive Raul Leal told The Australian Financial Review as his team flew into Melbourne to sign off on guest room designs for its first 1 Hotel in Australia.

This second hotel will be in a major city, while a third hotel is earmarked for a “secondary city”, Mr Leal said, without providing any further location details.

He said he was “thrilled” to be bringing 1 Hotels to Australia, and to Melbourne, which was a “natural fit for the brand” given its focus on sustainability.

“When we looked at Melbourne, we saw it was a city that was dedicated to sustainability, diversity and culture, so there was tremendous synergy with our vision,” Mr Leal said.

1 Hotel & Homes will debut in Australia in 2024 when a 277-room hotel opens a part of developer Riverlee’s $550 million Seafarers project at the historic Goods Shed site overlooking Melbourne’s Yarra.

It will join new 1 Hotels in development in London, Paris and Copenhagen alongside a number of existing hotels in the US.

The Melbourne project, which kicked off delayed construction in February, will also introduce the branded residences concept – an established phenomenon in the US and Europe – to Australia.

Branded under the 1 Hotels & Homes banner, owners and tenants of the 120 luxury apartments included in the development will be able to access the same amenities and services provided to hotel guests including things like housekeeping, in-room dining, concierge and valet services.

This type of offering has attracted a high proportion of busy business owners with the directors of co-working business The Commons among the buyers of apartments off the plan.

The 1 Hotels brand was established by Barry Sternlicht, founder of Starwood Hotels, which merged with Marriott in 2016 to create the world’s biggest hotel management company.

Mr Sternlicht’s private investment company, Starwood Capital, which manages $160 billion of assets, launched 1 Hotels seven years ago with a specific focus on sustainability, the environment and wellness.

“I decided that if I was ever going to create another hotel, I wanted it to be more than a brand; I wanted it to be a cause,” Mr Sternlicht said in 2015.

Incorporating significant amounts of reclaimed and recycled materials as well as plenty of plants and other natural elements, the first 1 Hotel featuring 11,000 local tropical plant varieties opened in Miami in 2015. Another hotel in New York included steel entrance doors embedded with 16,000 fallen twigs and a fitness centre floor made from a reclaimed university basketball court.

In 2019, Starwood Capital revealed 1 Hotels would make its Australian debut in Melbourne in 2022, a launch that was pushed back two years due to the impact of the pandemic on construction costs.

Mr Leal said the Melbourne 1 Hotel would incorporate many of the things seen in its properties around the world, including the use of reclaimed wood – in this case, the original wharf timbers, roof trusses, purlins and columns from the Good Sheds site will be incorporated into the hotel’s interior – and other locally sourced natural materials.

It will also be LEED certified under the global third-party green building program, and include water refill stations in all its rooms to help reduce the purchase of plastic water bottles.

Alongside the hotel and apartments, the Riverlee development will include a 3500sq m public park, a 1000-seat function centre and food and beverage offerings. As part of the development, Riverlee will also restore the site’s heritage-listed crane.

Riverlee project director Brett Howlett said the expansion of 1 Hotels in the Australian hotel market reflected the growing demand for sustainable luxury.

“There has been a fundamental shift in our social conscience around sustainability,” Mr Howlett said.

“This is not just evident in younger generations, we are now seeing the rise of the eco-boomer. Responsibility around the environment is increasingly influencing the way we all choose to live, work and travel,” he said.