This is the very first installment of a blog series we’re calling “Sarasota Sizzle.” What’s “sizzle,” you ask? The Blink;Tech team’s definition of “sizzle” is what happens at the local intersection of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. The more we look around us in Sarasota, the more we discover people, businesses, projects, and initiatives that “sizzle.” And when something sizzles, it’s too good not to share.
Sarasota, Florida has been quietly undergoing a big change. Belying its reputation as a tranquil getaway for seniors, Sarasota is slowly blossoming into a premier tech town with a younger vibe and fertile ground for innovative companies to take root. It’s easy to miss on first glance, but spend a little time here and you will see what Movoto saw when they named Sarasota the second-nerdiest small city In America.
Lately, however, this change has been clearly visible on the Sarasota skyline in the form of construction cranes. In the past the cranes have meant more condos going up, but this new batch of development spells something exciting for downtown Sarasota: hotels. And one of those hotels in particular could have a big impact on the Sarasota tech scene.
Attention All Techies!
Aloft Hotel (part of the Starwood Hotel and Resort chain) represents a bit of a departure over traditional hotel brands. Appealing to a more tech-savvy traveler, Aloft Hotels around the country offer state-of-the-art room amenities such as app-controlled lighting, a smart-mirror that displays news and weather, and dual flat screen TVs connected to wireless headphones allowing those sharing a room to choose their own entertainment.
The specific tech amenities at Aloft Sarasota are still being determined and will likely evolve over time, according to Janet Hansen, Aloft Sarasota’s Sales Manager. However, Janet did tell us that through the Starwood Preferred Guest® program, you will be able to check into your room, unlock your door, and interact with the hotel in other ways via an app on your mobile phone or tablet.
Other cool tech features coming to Aloft Sarasota are an illuminated ticker in the lobby scrolling news and entertainment developments à la Times Square, and a an elaborate light and water feature in the hotel’s expansive backyard. And, of course, some of the fastest Wi-Fi around (totally free to guests).
Not surprisingly, Starwood launched the first of these tech-oriented hotels in the online virtual world Second Life, which allowed them to gauge visitors’ reactions and get feedback that would be incorporated into the design of the future real-world hotels.
Green and Lean
The Aloft brand is also noted for its commitment to the environment through energy-saving construction techniques and green initiatives, such as vouchers for the hotel’s gourmet eatery for guests that decline housekeeping. For fitness buffs, the state-of-the-art gym and eighth floor pool will help burn off any calories gained by reusing the towels.
Don’t Forget Fido!
Aloft Sarasota will officially be Sarasota’s most dog-friendly hotel! The hotel not only allows pets, but won’t require a pet deposit. In Aloft’s “Arf Program,” every furry traveling companion will be supplied with a special bed and complimentary treats!
Keeping It Local
When it comes to entertainment, Aloft Hotels have garnered a lot of attention with their W XYZ® Bar. Unlike traditional hotel lounges, the W XYZ® Bar features live, independent music, focusing mostly on local bands and performers. Occasionally, headline indie acts perform at the hotels through special Live@Aloft events, and this is a possibility even here in Sarasota. The Aloft Sarasota bar will feature an integrated Bose system providing stellar sound that musicians need only plug into — leave your amps in the van! This is big news for both Sarasota indie bands and music fans as Aloft Sarasota will provide an exciting new venue in town.
What Does This Mean for Sarasota?
Let’s face it. All of us who live in Sarasota get a bit weary of the traffic and crowds brought on by “season.” It may be a bit difficult at first to get excited about a hotel. But Aloft Sarasota will appeal to a breed of techie tourist and business traveler that may not otherwise choose Sarasota as a destination. These are people that will more likely appreciate Sarasota for aspects that are often overlooked by tourism articles and travel websites; namely, our strong creative class, our tech startups, and our indie music scene. If they are like any of us in the Sarasota tech community, they may just find this is the perfect place to germinate their next start-up, or maybe even call home. And as the creative class in Sarasota grows, so too will the incentive for larger tech companies to be born or relocate here. So we welcome Aloft Sarasota with open arms!
Aloft Sarasota is located at the corner of South Palm Avenue and Ringling Boulevard. The hotel is scheduled to open on February 4, 2016.
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