Posted on: March 26, 2020
After fourteen years of discussion with critics, judges, banks and the municipality, the new Asian theme hotel MAI Amsterdam on Geldersekade has finally opened its doors. A new hotel on one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam.
Founder Arjen Van den Hof on Amsterdam’s newest hotel addition: ‘The story of the building and the neighborhood play an important role in my interest in a possible new project. In this project, the rich (cultural) history and development of Chinatown in Amsterdam’s Red Light District turned out to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration. From the beginning I was flooded with ideas. With Hotel Mai Amsterdam I would like to create a place where travellers and locals come together and enjoy design, art and hospitality – a place to Meet Asia In Amsterdam.’
Each hotel room is enriched with a work of art created by fashion designer and artist Claes Iversen. He made an Asian-inspired series of paintings especially for Mai Amsterdam. Iversen artistically edited his homemade photos of Chinese architecture with paint and other originally chosen materials. In addition, flower paintings, made in combination of paint and embroidery, are a common work in this series.
The 81-room hotel MAI Amsterdam has been open since Chinese New Year – 25 January, 2020 – fourteen years after the first plans. Long years, with a crisis, banks that first became enthusiastic and then reluctant and – when there was money again – contractors who were too busy. And there was the objection, as with other recent new Hotels in Amsterdam, among others: more crowds, nuisance, mess. “On the last day that an objection could be lodged, someone still objected to Hotel Mai Amsterdam,” owner Kin-Ping Dun says in the lobby. The individual properties have long been in his family, which also owns the Asian Shop Dun Yong. “The warehouse contained items for the Asian Shop and our wholesaler, as well as all kinds of art objects that my parents had collected. In the other part, we created a Chinese shopping center at the end of 2001. But that never delivered that what we had hoped for.”
When the Chinese wholesaler moved to Sloterdijk, a future as a hotel was the most obvious one. According to Kin-Ping, there were hardly any alternatives. “The layout of the buildings did not comply with the building rules for permanent residence. Then you would have had to demolish almost everything and build new structures, right in the middle of the Red Light District. When the government was still a strong advocate of new hotels, the municipality, district, Stadsherstel and NV Zeedijk all strongly agreed.
This was not the case for everyone in the area, which is why it’s an objection. The resistance to Hotel Mai Amsterdam did not seem defensible to the family. Since the designs date from 2006, they never fell under the hotel stop that the city council later announced in its attempts to curb the tourist crowds. The judge ruled otherwise. “We had a permit for 83 rooms, but there was a typo in a hotel list of the municipality; there were 63 rooms. The court found that so important that they immediately destroyed the entire project. We had nothing left at all.”
“It hurt because the building had been empty for so long. What we earned at the Asian Shop disappeared into this project. It couldn’t have lasted much longer. We are not a project developer who has all kinds of funds to deal with that.” He understands the concerns. “We’ve been a part of this neighbourhood for so long that I really see what the objections are. We promised not to sell the hotel anytime soon and knew very early on that we would partner with Vondel Hotels for the operation. We went to their Hotel De Hallen with a bus full of local residents, to show what kind of hotel group that is. That did help. But you don’t convince people who don’t want to believe it.”
In the end they had to take it up to the Board of State level to dismantle the consequences of the typing error. The family made more promises, laid down in the permits. The hotel has a separate restaurant, MAI Kitchen, with its own entrance on the Zeedijk. That entrance is not for Hotel Mai Amsterdam guests. “That was the agreement with Stadsherstel; no trunks on the Zeedijk. ” Another deal concerns the Elleboogsteeg between Zeedijk and Geldersekade, which separates the hotel buildings. This alley was closed for years, now it opens again. “That is a wish of the city district; not our idea. We would have preferred to have made it part of the hotel, covered. But that went too far for the district. Understandable, because it is public space.
That meant that we had to go over it with a glass passage, which was quite difficult. ”Kin-Ping is satisfied with the final result. “It has not become a hotel with red lanterns. It is a look that I do not know, but that feels very good. Arjen van den Hof, had a lot of contact with my parents. Much of the art that now stands here comes from our store. I see some images still exactly in place in the racks, under fluorescent light.”
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