The firm behind Ace Hotels branches out with a historic property in Casco Viejo.
When Atelier Ace decided to venture beyond its widely successful Ace Hotels chain, it set its sights on Panama and looked to partner with local businesses. Conservatorio, a Panama City-based development firm committed to restoring and operating defunct buildings, seemed the perfect fit. Together, the two firms set out to salvage the American Trade Building, a circa-1917 structure in the Casco Viejo neighborhood. The edifice had special significance for Conservatorio cofounder Ramon Richardo Arias—his great-great-grandfather had built American Trade almost a century ago. But it was just as meaningful for the architectural community, as a preeminent example of Leonardo Villanueva Meyer’s work and the “Bellavistana” style he originated. To restore the neglected structure to its former glory, local architect Hildegard Vasquez and Los Angeles-based design firm Commune Design were brought on. The resulting interiors are stunning—white panelling, dark wood accents, low-slung leather chairs. True to Conservatorio’s local mission, this elevated aesthetic isn’t reserved for visitors alone. Locals are welcome to partake in refined cuisine at either The Dining Room or Lobby Cafe and Bar, both helmed by Panama City chef Clara Icaza. The hotel’s main draw is Danilo’s Jazz Club—a world-class jazz club showcasing both international and local talent such as Danilo Pérez, a Grammy-winning jazz pianist and composer. Overall, to stay here is to experience true Panamanian culture in a contemporary context.