The Oaklander brings luxury hotel option to Oakland


Hannah Heisler | Staff Photographer

Oakland’s newest hotel, The Oaklander, opened on Thursday, Feb. 28.

By Maggie Young, Staff Writer

Oakland residents and visitors can now stay at a luxe hotel or dine at its restaurant — both after taking the elevator to the 10th floor.

Oakland’s newest hotel, The Oaklander, opened last Thursday, and its lobby and restaurant, Spirits and Tales, are located on the 10th floor. The hotel includes 167 guest rooms and five event spaces in addition to the restaurant.

A night at The Oaklander costs $200 for either a single king-sized bed or two queen beds. Corner rooms cost $289 per night for either a single king or two queens. According to Jackie Gillespie, the hotel’s director of sales, the lobby and restaurant are on the 10th floor to give all of the hotel’s visitors access to a view of the neighborhood’s popular sights, such as the Cathedral of Learning and Schenley Park.

“The space is on the 10th floor because I think it would’ve been tragic to have this location and not bring these views of Oakland to everyone,” Gillespie said. “Everything [in Oakland] is kind of elevated, so it made sense to have an elevated lobby and an elevated restaurant space, and our event space is also up here on 10. So this way, everyone gets to enjoy the best views rather than there just being 10th floor guest rooms and a penthouse.”

Gillespie said this feature of the hotel may make it sound somewhat elitist, but she thinks The Oaklander avoids that. Spirits and Tales is open to guests and non-guests alike.

“We’re a luxurious hotel without being stuffy, we’re very approachable. It’s elevated, it’s luxe without the stuffy luxury that you kind of think of sometimes with the boutique hotels,” Gillespie said.

The hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. Currently consisting of 106 hotels, the collection designs no two buildings the same, Gillespie said. This collection offers boutique locations, meaning something smaller but more upscale than a normal full-service hotel.

According to Rabikar Chatterjee, associate dean of the Katz School of Business, Oakland is in need of a hotel like this. The presence of boutique hotels like this are increasing, including places like Mansions on Fifth in Shadyside and Kimpton Hotel Monaco Downtown.

“Oakland — and in particular, Pitt and CMU — definitely needs a high quality hotel that promises to provide a more upscale experience for guests than do existing facilities in the neighborhood. Both universities have missed the presence of a luxury hotel for their important visitors,” Chatterjee said in an email.

While this is something new for the Oakland community, Chaterjee said he doesn’t see the presence of a luxurious hotel having a negative impact on long-term Oakland residents.

“I see the impact of the hotel on long-term Oakland residents as relatively minor but positive,” Chaterjee said in an email. “The hotel alone will not contribute to an influx of an affluent population to Oakland leading to ‘gentrification’ — a dynamic that is often of justifiable concern to long-term residents of a community because of its impact [on] housing prices and the cost of living.”

The Oaklander reflects the neighborhood’s personality in terms of its design, according to Ami Kahalekulu, the hotel’s interior designer. The lobby is black and white with gold finishings, and Spirits and Tales is also black and white with blue and orange undertones. The Oaklander’s style is inspired by the culture and industrious history of the Oakland community, Kahalekulu said.

“Oakland has a strong pulse and energy tempered with a historic foundation. We wanted to tap into this feeling of ‘a forward-thinking institution yet someplace comfortable.’ The goal has been to create a timeless space, that doesn’t speak to a time period or theme or fad but, rather, the strength and integrity that is Pittsburgh,” Kahalekulu said in a press release.

Gillespie said the company was driven to put a boutique hotel in Oakland due to its traction from the active medical and academic communities located in the neighborhood.

“Somebody who’s looking for more of an upscale hotel experience or boutique experience, rather than having to go Downtown to one of the more high-end hotels down there, now they can stay right here in Oakland,” Gillespie said.

Chatterjee said Oakland is its own kind of destination. Although people may have previously been traveling Downtown for this kind of hotel experience, visitors should want to stay in Oakland because of all the community has to offer, like the universities and museums.

“I believe [The Oaklander] will be great in terms of raising [Oakland’s] visibility, stimulating the local economy and generating new business opportunities,” Chaterjee said in an email. “In addition, I hope that its presence will prompt other hotels in Oakland to raise their game. Certainly, Pitt will benefit significantly from its presence.”

Emily Smith, a senior psychology major, works full-time at The Oaklander as a front desk agent while also being a part-time student at Pitt. Smith said she has enjoyed working at the hotel, and the luxury The Oaklander is giving to the neighborhood is helping transform the community into something more modern and professional.

“I think Oakland is turning a corner,” Smith said. “It’s like a new Oakland is coming, because there’s just so much new things happening. I think something high-end like this is a good start to that change. We’re bringing in business professionals, doctors. It’s just giving a new classier vibe to Oakland.”