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Alex Calderwood, co-founder of artsy Ace Hotels chain, dies at 47

Alex Calderwood, pictured in 2010 in Hollywood, denied that the Ace Hotels catered to 'a bleeding-edge hip audience.'
Alex Calderwood, pictured in 2010 in Hollywood, denied that the Ace Hotels catered to 'a bleeding-edge hip audience.'Alexandra Wyman / WireImage

Alex Calderwood, co-founder of the upscale Ace Hotel chain, which started in 1999 with a single refurbished halfway house in Seattle's arts district, has died at age 47, the company said.

Calderwood died Thursday in London, site of the company's newest hotel. No cause was reported.

The company confirmed Calderwood's death in a brief statement on its blog that said only that he "was our teacher, mentor, guru and most importantly our dear friend." Company employees said they'd been asked not to talk to reporters.

The first Ace Hotel was opened in 1999 in Seattle by Calderwood, Wade Weigel and David Petersen, who'd become known in trendy circles for having founded the quirky, upscale Rudy's Barbershop chain in Los Angeles seven years earlier. 

The three took over the lease of an old Salvation Army halfway house in Seattle's waterfront Belltown neighborhood, a densely populated center of the city's restaurant and arts scene. 

With intentionally cheap rates, room art by Shepard Fairey — the man behind the iconic Barack Obama "Hope" poster — antique steam radiators, artists' lofts and cleverly concealed bathrooms (some behind revolving doors), the Ace quickly became a favorite of adventurous travelers.

The hotel chain now has locations in New York, London, Palm Springs, Calif., and Portland, Ore., and is scheduled to open in Los Angeles in January.

Ace Hotels are often described as hipster headquarters, especially the Portland location, which has been parodied in the TV series "Portlandia" — where the snobbish staff provides record turntables and typewriters to the guests of the "Deuce Hotel."

"We're not trying to be a quote-unquote hip hotel, per se," Calderwood said in a 2011 interview with The New York Times. 

"We don't view ourselves as just catering to a sort of bleeding-edge audience or a bleeding-edge hip audience," he said.  "It's the whole combination or mix, but I think that makes it all human."

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