Pretty soon West Palm Beachers might ask you, “Have you been to the Ben?”
That’s because a cool new hotel — the Ben West Palm — is coming to the hot downtown area with an opening slated for Feb. 13.
The boutique hotel sits on Flagler Banyan Square, where City Hall used to be. The location gives the Ben bragging rights as downtown West Palm Beach’s only waterfront hotel.
Taking advantage of that view, the Ben will have Spruzzo, the only water-facing rooftop lounge in the downtown area. Spruzzo will sit alongside the hotel’s infinity pool and cabanas, and will have a fire pit as well as an express elevator to take patrons from the lobby directly to the eighth floor al fresco boîte.
“From up there you can see past the Breakers into the ocean,” says Thom Stewart, the director of sales and marketing for the Ben, who has been giving hard hat tours of the property since spring to organizations looking for a space to stage charity galas and corporate events.
“Anyone who goes to the top floor, they are sold,” Stewart adds. “They are looking for something unique.”
The Ben is part of the Marriott Autograph Collection and will have close to 8,000 square feet of event space and 208 guest rooms, of which about 60 percent will face the Palm Harbor Marina.
“This market has been very strong, all the counties of South Florida,” explains Bernardo Neto, the Ben’s general manager. “But West Palm Beach in particular has had big events and it needs an extra special hotel. Within blocks of the City Center you have great restaurants and state of the art events, the [Palm Beach International Boat Show] and SunFest.
“And even with all of that, the city has not had the kind of hotel like Boca Raton or Fort Lauderdale already has. The variety of hotels and sampling of brands that a traveler will benefit from in other cities was never available here.”
How the Ben got it’s name
The Ben is a throwback referencing a late 1800s home in the same area that was called Ben Trovato.
“It’s an Italian expression, which means a story very well told,” says Neto, who is originally from Portugal and previously ran the Park MGM Las Vegas. “It’s … another way of saying ‘Even if it’s not true, it’s a good story.’ ”
Neto says the Ben Trovato Estate was owned by Byrd “Birdie” Spilman Dewey, an author and South Florida pioneer who co-founded the town of Boynton Beach. Dewey’s home served as a sort of socializing salon for both business and creative travelers as well as prominent locals.
“The hotel is based on the spirit of the pioneer,” Neto adds. “We wanted to connect to that. There was something super authentic about it … and the Marriott Autograph Collection likes to find these unique stories.”
The interior of the hotel, designed by Malcolm Berg of EoA Group in Coral Gables, pays homage to the Ben Trovato Estate with low, soft seating and hardwood finishing. The main bar in the lobby is half indoor and half outdoors, “creating that residential feel,” says Neto. “You walk into the lobby of the hotel and there are four chairs that hang from the ceiling 25 feet high.”
Stewart, who has lived in Fort Lauderdale and now resides in West Palm Beach, adds, “There are things that as you walk through you have to stop and look at for a second time — the art work or the sculptures. And since Byrd Dewy was a writer there is a sitting room, very elegant … with soft furniture and two fire places. Each picture has been hand-selected so they all have a story behind it.
“When I take people on these tours and they go into the lobby bathroom, they come out and they say that they can’t believe that they wallpapered the ceiling, but thinking back on those old estates, that was very common.”
The Ben’s amenities
In addition to the infinity pool, ballroom and Spruzzo, the hotel will also have:
- The first floor restaurant is called Proper Grit and is what Neto calls, “a signature Florida chop house, but a hipster version of a steak house,” which he interprets as using as much locally sourced food and beverages as possible, paying attention to South Florida’s micro seasons. “For example, if strawberries are in season then for one month we might showcase that ingredient,” Neto explains. “And some of our guests come in for stone crab season, so we want to connect the guest to the local fishermen through our culinary offerings.” The name comes from the “grit” of the pioneers and the “proper” air of Dewey’s sophisticated socializing.
- There is a flex-use space called the Studio, which is an industrial-chic room with a glass garage door and an unfinished ceiling.
- To evoke the vibe of Ben Trovato, the Ben hotel will have High Tea every afternoon.
- Dogs will get treats, a special little robe and have their own room service menu when staying in the hotel (Dewey’s most famous book is titled “Bruno,” a name she also gave to her beloved dog that she famously doted on).
- Sunrise yoga classes will be offered and each guest room has a yoga mat. There will also be beer yoga, spotlighting local micro breweries.
- The rooms have a secret door that when opened exposes painted glass in the shower.
- All the bathrooms have direct sunlight.