By GRAEME WILLINGHAM
TRAVEL: 16 FEBRUARY 2015
Jasper becomes an
extrovert in Melbourne
Goodness knows how many travelling young women from around Australia, and the world, played basketball during the 1990s on the members-only courts at the Young Women’s Christian Association hostel just near Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market.
In the outside world, no one knew of the court’s existence, but there’s no basketball played there anymore. What were those YWCA courts, plus a gym and dance studio, is now a focal-point two-level atrium for eight suites at the recently refurbished four-star boutique Jasper Hotel, which previously traded as the Hotel Y when the YCWA management turned the hostel into an all-gender backpackers.
In early 2000 a hotel upgrade coincided with a rename and fresh look for the property. Then, 98 percent of Victorian YWCA members voted in favour of the name Jasper Hotel, in reference to the Jasper stone, which has many colours. The courts space remained derelict and boarded up as the Jasper traded on above and below.
The new-look Jasper has 90 rooms over eight levels and is certainly a place of many colours. While room decor is stylish subtle and calm in character, the hallway wall and ceiling colours on several levels could be described as outlandish, extrovert, or contemporary-fun. Try cobalt blue, post-box red, plum purple, lipstick pink and racing green. Each hallway has its own colour.
Universally, the colours are fun for guests emerging from the lift after check-in, but may be confronting the next morning for guests who’ve had a big night out on the town.
A smart reception has its own splash of colour, the more refined yellow and brown hues of the amber stone. There’s no hint there of what’s in store upstairs.
Instead of opting to hide the new hotel restaurant on a second floor, it was built at ground level, opening on to the street which has generated a buzz of passer-by patronage ... diners, snackers, coffee addicts and those just wishing to salute the ale.
The hotel’s general manager Doug Smith told a thesaurus of Australian Society of Travel Writers members there before Christmas for a preview that owners aimed to have the hotel classed as a four-and-a-half-star property by mid 2015.
Smith was a point guard with the Arizona State Sun Devils in his college days when he studied broadcast journalism and hotel management, although in his dreams he was a power forward.
He recalls, as a seven-year-old, his mum buying the best courtside tickets to see California’s Los Angeles Lakers strut their stuff in the heyday ShowTime 80s. He was in awe of the on-court mastery of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan while he suspects his mum had a crush on Pat Reilly.
In deference to OH&S rules, he reluctantly dismissed the temptation to shoot a few baskets before the work crew demolished the courts, gym and dance studios.
The renovation is the design work of David Lee (K2LD Architects) who worked on the landmark Eureka Tower in Southbank.
It was during the renovations that Smith pushed ahead with technology to be the first hotel in Victoria to introduce Mobile Opera, the online, mobile check-in system designed to significantly reduce guest queues and waiting times at check-in. The technology enables guest to check-in and check-out via a wireless connection to the hotel’s booking system and network accessed by ipads, smart phones or tablets facilities payment and sets scheduled check-out times.
“No point in dribbling Mobile Opera into the hotel launch program when it was there on the bench primed to play, six months ago,” said Smith.