Jason Cruce Helps Dakota Development Go Global

With the acquisition of Morgans Hotel Group, Dakota Development has gained several international properties, including London’s Sanderson Hotel and SLS Baha Mar in the Bahamas

When American Builders Quarterly last spoke with Jason Cruce, vice president of design for Dakota Development, the company may as well have been one of its own luxury buildings. As a newly minted subsidiary of SBE Entertainment Group, the company was quickly rising toward the sky, with Cruce involved in a number of its high-profile projects, including the SLS Seattle and the Mark, a 46-story high-rise in the heart of the Emerald City’s bustling downtown.

Jason Cruce, Dakota Development

The expansion hasn’t stopped. Despite being less than four years old (the subsidiary was founded in June 2015 to focus specifically on SBE’s real estate development), Dakota Development’s wingspan has widened to encompass a string of international properties. This is largely due to the May 2016 acquisition of Morgans Hotel Group (MHG), a hospitality company with a portfolio of iconic brands. Dakota Development now counts the Delano, Mondrian, and Hudson hotel chains among the many jewels in its crown.

At the same time, the company has continued to collaborate with top outside vendors, including Duravit. “Our 200-year history is rooted in forward-thinking design, innovation, and craftsmanship,” says the company’s president and CEO, Tim Schroeder. “We see that same commitment to design and service in our partnership with Jason Cruce and the multitalented SBE group.”

With SBE’s new global focus, Cruce has tackled two prominent projects outside of the United States: a “freshening” of the Sanderson Hotel in London, which came with the MHG acquisition, and the construction of the SLS Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas.

Sanderson Hotel

When SBE took in London’s Sanderson Hotel, it also took on the upkeep of renovations started by Banjo AD’s interior designer, Tim Andreas. Given the Sanderson’s legacy, which dates all the way back to 1958, any changes had to be treated delicately.

The hotel’s open-air Courtyard Garden, for example, is an architecturally classified Heritage Garden, making it an official landmark of London. But now, it has a heated outdoor terrace and undergoes various seasonal metamorphoses. Last summer, for example, it took on an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland motif, complete with 50 plastic flamingos and a seated swing that became a rose-arched throne for the Queen of Hearts.

The hotel’s rooms themselves now sport subtle wood carvings and hand-blocked wallpaper. Neither accent is meant to take guests into the future; they’re instead meant to harken back to English manor-house trimmings from the 17th century. At the same time, the antiquity is outfitted with simple trappings of modernity, including floor-to-ceiling glass enclosures in the bathroom, reading lamps, bedside USB charging stations, and various media hubs. Together, they create a minimalist residential atmosphere.

It helps that Andreas is a protégé of famed French designer Philippe Starck, who oversaw the Sanderson’s refurbishments in the late 1990s, before the hotel reopened on April 25, 2000. Like Starck’s, Andreas’s design has focused on honoring the past while keeping guests rooted in the present.

SLS Baha Mar

With 2,300 rooms spread out across three hotels overflowing with entertainment options and amenities, Baha Mar is now the largest casino and retail complex in the Caribbean. And to think, it almost didn’t get built at all.

Originally slated to open in 2014, production stalled due to a variety of financial issues. Luckily, Dakota Development came aboard to play a huge part in allowing the tropical wonderland to reach completion. An invaluable part of the equation was the construction of the SLS Baha Mar, the second of the three hotels (the other two being the Grand Hyatt and the Rosewood Baha Mar).

While guests at SLS get to enjoy amenities shared by the entire Baha Mar complex—including an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course—the hotel also has a variety of luxury features to call its own. For instance, famed Japanese restaurant Katsuya picked the SLS for its 10th location. Beneath high ceilings of natural wood, white and tan leather seating accompanies rows of sharply lined tables.

Tucked away in the restaurant, the private Dragon Room surrounds diners with walls designed to resemble serpentine scales. Shades of red pop among more muted tones of black, white, and grey, casting everything in a smoky light.

Elsewhere on the dining front, SBE installed the first international location of its Cleo brand of Mediterranean restaurants. It currently occupies Nassau’s only rooftop lounge. Inside, rounded light fixtures of different lengths in the dining room have the appearance of floating orbs, and the space’s off-white color scheme is further accented by the emerald leaves of tropical plants.

Outside, at the Bungalow Beach Bar and Grill, a quainter design invites guests to the wind-kissed deck. Under the shade of overhanging lattices, they can take in views of one of Baha Mar’s many pools. The Bungalow pool’s shape is long and rectangular, flanked by a row of towering palm trees on each side that lead to the bar. From afar, with its swooping silhouette and elongated roof, the bar’s canopy resembles a pagoda.