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The Palm Springs Babies - Exclusive Interview

The Palm Springs Babies - Exclusive Interview

Photo Credit: Whitney Wolff

Photo Credit: Whitney Wolff

Interview by: Whitney Wolff
Edited by: Isabelle Braun 

An Exclusive Interview with Grit Development’s Michael Braun and Hohmann Fine Art Gallery’s Christian Hohmann


MB: I wanted to bring another attraction other than Retailers and Restaurants to Downtown Palm Springs; Christian Hohmann has the knowledge about great art pieces and understood right away what I was looking for. 

CH: Great art has the power to transform. It’s fascinating on so many levels and it draws people. More people visit museums than major sport events (http:// and public art or sculpture has transformed many cities (for example Chicago – Anish Kapoor, Bilbao – Guggenheim Museum). Art tourism is very much a thing, and when visitors are faced with numerous travel opportunities they tend to choose the destinations that look the most interesting. And an installation by a world renown artist can tip the scale when all else is equal. 


MB: Christian and David Černý committed to a minimum of 20 months; I was very grateful for their generosity 

CH: Unfortunately, Černý’s sculptures are very expensive and there was no way of funding a purchase. Through the great relationship with the artist and his love for Palm Springs we were able to convince him to lend this installation at no cost for the time being. This way we can compete – even if just temporarily – with major cities that have lots of spending power. Even though everybody involved worked for free, the logistics of getting the Babies from Prague to Palm Springs were expensive and Michael Braun funded the project completely and with no help from the city or use of taxpayer’s money. 


MB: I will leave the original reason of their creation to Christian to explain; despite their historic significance 30 years ago; I was drawn to them because of my three children and all their friends; Technology for better or worse is transforming our societies 

CH: Černý first came up with the concept of the baby with the imprint of a barcode instead of a face in the early 90s for an exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. From there it was developed further and then the Babies multiplied. They were exhibited in London, the Netherlands, Germany, basically all over Europe and one installation even sold to Australia into a private collection. In 2000, the city of Prague approached Černý to come up with an idea for a major public installation to be on display during the year 2001, when Prague would be the cultural capital of Europe. The idea of placing 10 babies onto the TV Tower, a 300 feet tall building towering over the city, was met with skepticism, but was ultimately realized. After a bureaucratic battle of permits and code restrictions, Černý was able to finish the installation in time. By the time, the installation was supposed to be taken down, the people of Prague had fallen in love with the “Tower Babies” and voted to keep the installation permanently, so the company who owns the TV Towers purchased them. Most recently it was decided to rebuild the babies with new materials due to concerns of increased wind loads in the city, so Černý received the original set back. It was at that time that we had talked to Michael Braun about ideas for the empty building site and it was serendipitous that Černý had visited just weeks before and had met Braun and visited the Palm Springs Art Museum. Černý had fallen in love with Palm Springs and everything it stands for and consequently agreed to lend the installation at no cost. 



MB: While the initial message was referencing Russia and the Iron curtain between East and West, I view them as an example of today’s technology driven world and impact on the next generation. 

CH: Černý’s original inspiration was the barcode. Invented in 1974, it didn’t get widely used in Europe, especially Eastern Europe until the late 1980s. Černý was concerned about the tendencies to slap a number on everything, wondering if society would stop at products or would start putting barcodes on people. He also saw that people were incredibly indifferent, if not enthusiastic about the technology and he wanted to create a wake-up call. By taking the most precious thing to humankind, a baby, and placing an imprint of a barcode where the face should be, Černý didn’t just take away the individuality, he symbolized the loss of our humanity. Had he done that with an adult person sculpture, people would have barely noticed, but using the baby stirred raw emotions. Interestingly enough, 30 years after he had this original idea, the fear or threat remains as just as valid as it was then, if not more. Today, we see young adults with barcode tattoos, who it’s cool, not knowing or not remembering that just 80 years ago the Holocaust victims were marked with numbers, the equivalent to a barcode. To battle ignorance and indifference, mere words do not suffice. Černý’s strong visuals stir controversy and emotions, and that is why he creates – to make a point, a “wake up” call, so to speak. 


MB: Art is part of our culture experience; it’s a snapshot of today’s world events 

CH: Art is important anywhere, but especially in a city like Palm Springs, art can serve as a catalyst. Palm Springs is a city that prides itself with tolerance, acceptance and expression of freedom in almost every way. But there is also an unspoken code of political correctness. An art installation allows for a hypothetical conversation, a discourse where all opinions are allowed. Everybody can be a critic, one doesn’t have to be qualified to have an opinion, and in the resulting discussion we learn a lot about ourselves and others, because we are free to discuss without consequence or hurting anyone’s feelings. 


MB: Art and business normally do not mix well, than I met Christian Hohmann . A lot of invested dollars later .....Isabelle and the Babies came to Downtown and I am very very happy to have listened to Christian and Ann Sheffer, Chair of the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. 

CH: I have been in the art business my entire life and giving artists an audience has always been my passion. Michael Braun’s courage, vision and generosity allowed us to take that concept to another level. The audience we were able to reach with the projects Isabelle and the Babies is beyond our wildest dreams. It makes all the hard work worth it. 


MB: Baby Boomers and Millennials complement each other - both together determine the latest consumer trends. 

CH: I believe that there has always been a generational cross-pollination, but today more than ever, the young generation has the advantage of having grown up with technology to the degree where it is second nature, good or bad, while older generations face a steep learning curve. Information used to be scarce and valuable, now we have to deal with the overload of information. Again, I believe that we only learn by listening to each other, young and old, straight and gay, republican and democrats, one race to another, etc. In the end we will find that there is more that unites us than divides us, but it requires a conversation. 


MB: My wife and I were introduced to Christian at a dinner party in 2005 and we became friends. Then in 2016, the City of Palm Springs asked me to build a fountain in front of the Kimpton Hotel. I reached out to Christian to do something more extraordinary than a fountain, knowing that only something special would work. We then both worked with the Palm Springs Art Commission and the City Council to bring Isabelle and later the Černý Babies to Downtown. 

CH: I met Michael and Wendy Braun years ago through a wonderful mutual friend, another German, who has since moved away. One day I received a phone call from Michael and he asked me if I could come to see the construction site. Apparently everybody was pushing for a fountain in a very prominent space, but Michael had a different vision and he wanted some out-of-the-box thinking. To be asked to be a part of his vision of reshaping downtown is such a privilege. It was hard to keep up with Michael’s pace, passion and dedication, but my team and our artists worked tirelessly to make this come together. 


MB: I know what I love and I love the contemporary time period. It reflects my time and it is created by my peers. I understand the value, both monetary and historically, of old masters, but it’s a time that has come and gone. I live in the now and I like art that reflects that. I believe that I am not alone in that sentiment, judging by the price development in recent years. But more importantly, contemporary artists aren’t afraid to push boundaries and be controversial. Controversy is the one thing in today’s world that always brings attention, and I wanted to bring attention to this artist, this work, and this city. 

CH: The way contemporary art is received, we have a first in art history. Usually artists had to pass away before a major public breakthrough. This is the first time in art history that living artist fetch higher prices than old masters. There are many factors that are at work, but one of them is that human knowledge grows at a rapid pace ( . Up until 1900 human knowledge doubles every hundred years, today it is already doubling every year. The fact that we can access this knowledge quite literally with our fingertips has multiplied the desire to find the next big thing. Art is no exception. Contemporary is the art of today, of tomorrow. 


MB: Christian inspired me as a Developer to look at Art; it is up to him to convince me again to work with him to fund one of his next ideas. Let me put it this way, he understands where I am coming from and knows how to convince me to do the right thing for this great destination 

CH: The wonderful thing is that there are many public art projects underway, not just what we did. The next edition of Desert X is coming and more and more people are getting on board with the idea that Palm Springs has the potential to be an art destination in addition to everything else that draws people already. We will continue to work hard to come up with great ideas and we look forward to many more projects with Michael Braun and Grit Development. It was a great effort to finalize these two recent projects in such a short time so close together, but the new season is around the corner and Michael is not known to sit still for long. 

Hot List 2018 | Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel | CNTraveler

Hot List 2018 | Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Hotel | CNTraveler

Photo: Laure Joliet

Photo: Laure Joliet

Travelers craving a social scene—like most Kimpton hotels, the Rowan hosts nightly happy hours in the lobby. Both guests and visitors crowd the Window Bar in the lobby, and the High Bar, on the rooftop.

100 W Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, California 92262, United States
(760) 904-5015

Our Review


How did it strike you on arrival?
At seven stories, The Rowan is the tallest building in downtown Palm Springs, so you truly can't miss it. Though built from the ground up, the property's mid-century aesthetic feels very old-school. The sprawling lobby boasts a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves, and a two-story, picture window looking out on the San Jacinto mountains.

Nice. What’s the crowd like?
Travelers craving a social scene—like most Kimpton hotels, the Rowan hosts nightly happy hours in the lobby. Both guests and visitors crowd the Window Bar in the lobby, and the High Bar, on the rooftop.

The good stuff: Tell us about your room.
We stayed in one of the Spa Suites, which was spacious, and in keeping with the mid-century vibe. The balcony had a beautiful view of the mountains, and we found a yoga mat in the closet, in addition to the usual robe and slippers. The luxurious bathroom had a huge spa-style shower, and Malin and Goetz bath products.

What about the mini bar and the shower goodies? Anything find its way into your suitcase?
I loved that each nightstand had both a USB plug and an actual outlet (and yes, the free wi-fi worked perfectly). I would definitely steal one of the white PUBLIC bicycles that are available for guests.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It's all about the view from the rooftop, either while dining at the restaurant, 4 Saints, or having a poolside cocktail. Don't leave without trying the Jasmine cheesecake with matcha. Breakfast at sun-drenched Juniper Table was fantastic, I had the vanilla-bourbon french toast two days in a row.

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A Weekend in Palm Springs at The Rowan Palm Springs

A Weekend in Palm Springs at The Rowan Palm Springs



Palm Springs is one of my favorite places for a fun weekend getaway from LA. I just love the vibe there, all the bougainvillea, good food and the weather is the BEST! If you haven’t been there before (or in a few years), downtown is really changing! I always love checking out new hotels and when I discovered that a brand new Kimpton hotel opened, it was off to the desert to check it out!

If you’re not familiar with the Kimpton brand, they are one of my favorite hotel brands (The Goodland in Santa Barbara is a personal fave!). I love that each hotel has a different design (each hotel is designed to fit the vibe of the city), so you discover something new each time – plus their design + decor is ALWAYS on point as well as their food! My two fave things when traveling – great food + inspiring design :)

The Rowan Palm Springs opened about 4 months ago and it’s SUCH a great addition to downtown Palm Springs. I love that we were right in the middle of the action and lots of shopping and dining was walkable – no need to get in our car all weekend! And the best part? It has the only rooftop pool in Palm Springs!

So, let’s talk food!

The Rowan Palm Springs has 2 restaurants – 4 Saints and Juniper Table.  We didn’t get a chance to dine at 4 Saints (but I did visit the restaurant – it is on the rooftop with amazing views and great design!) The menu looks amazing but not very kid friendly and we were there with our girls. I would totally recommend it for a date night though!

We did dine at Juniper Table for both breakfast and dinner. I loved the vibe + decor here (see below!), plus so nice + easy when you are staying at the hotel. :) The food is described as “Rustic Mediterranean” and I really loved it. My picks for dinner (seen above): Avocado Flatbread (SOOO good – and pretty!), Ricotta Cavatelli and Roasted Cauliflower. All so good as well as cocktails.

For me, a weekend in PS, means pool side lounging + cocktails. Which we of course did. :) Another fun idea is the Palm Springs Art Museum which is just a block away. They currently have a great exhibit on Warhol (ends May 28th) which we really enjoyed. And of course, shopping. Next time I plan to also go to the Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium – ran out of time this trip! – but it looks crazy rad if you are a cactus fan like I am! :)

A few other things to note…. I got a lot of DMs on Instagram (I currently have a Highlight there with our weekend if you want to see more) asking if I thought the hotel was kid friendly. It definitely is! We brought our 2 young daughters (ages 5 and almost 2) and they had a blast. I think the hotel would also be great if you are planning a wedding in Palm Springs at a location that isn’t a hotel and you need to do a room block – this one would be SUCH a fun one for your wedding guests. And yes, they do also hosts weddings there, but it’s a bit tricky right now since the ceremony location is the pool so they recommend weddings there on weekdays….they do have an amazing suite on the rooftop that would be great to rent for a rehearsal dinner or engagement party if you are looking for something like that. :)

Until next time Palm Springs!!

To read entire blog post: Check out her blog at Green Wedding Shoes

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Grand Opening Celebration in Style, Jan. 23, 2018 | Palm Springs Life

Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs Grand Opening Celebration in Style, Jan. 23, 2018 | Palm Springs Life




Good vibes and fun energy filled the rooftop terrace at the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs at the recent Grand Opening Celebration.

With over 350 guests in attendance, Executive Chef Stephen Wambauch and the “4 Saints” team made sure the delicious fare kept flowing throughout the evening. From the mouth-watering pork loin with chimichurri sauce and baked sea bass to the full table length cheese board, no one was left hungry.

Among the guests were Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon, developer Michael Braun, Agua Caliente Tribal Council member Reid Milanovich and Kimpton Hotel executive team members James Baugh, Andy Nelson, Jim Hollister, Nick Gillio, Tim Laughton, Robert Ramirez and Abe Liao.

Topping off the night was a fashion runway show over the rooftop pool, presenting a selection of the latest collections of Trina Turk & Mr. Turk; and served as a sneak preview to one of the designers to be part of Fashion Week El Paseo 2018.

And throughout the evening, guests enjoyed taking in the gorgeous desert views all while sipping on signature cocktails and wine from both of the rooftop bars.

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Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs
100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262

Experience or Click?

Experience or Click?



Written by: Michael Braun, Grit Development

Remember when we “strolled” through the newspaper looking for that written treasure in the midst of beautiful pictures advertising brands and events? Memorizing the content to use in conversations at home or at work.  Being upset, if we could not recollect key sections.  The introduction of the “iPhone” (smartphone), e-mail, and social media changed all that overnight.  Everything can now be organized on one small device to be shared immediately and pulled up anytime.  But do we understand the content anymore or is it just fleeting as we get bombarded with Internet ads, new e-mail content and more articles we constantly save but never read?

Sitting in a cafe in Europe on a family vacation enjoying a coffee and reading a newspaper in print made me realize what I have been missing these past few years; Taking time to read and absorb.  While I enjoy reading the New York Times, my three teenagers are jailed in their Snapchat, Instagram or other social media apps experiencing enhanced pictures or short videos giving them a glimpse of what they might miss back home. Who has the more meaningful experience?  The couple in the latest iPhone ad sharing their favorite song streamed via iPhone and wireless headphones into their brains or the couple at the Staples Center, COACHELLA festival or theater enjoying “live” music in a beautiful setting. An experience the Internet or any technology device will never be able to offer.

Technology gives us more time, extends our memory and the iPhone acts as our new “companion” to help with daily tasks. The “companion” organizes us, reminds us and gives us the feeling of “belonging” as random people like our posts or congratulate us on posted articles we found strolling through the Internet. But did they really even read it?

Life is about experiencing things, feeling them, and creating memorable events. Our brains are built for chemical reactions triggered by visual and live experiences, touching humans or products.  There is no doubt technology is here to stay, however, there is also no doubt brick and mortar, printed books, newspapers, music events and other experiences are enjoying an unexpected Renaissance.  Newspapers especially will benefit from a sudden recognition that “truth” is a thing again. I call it regression to the mean.

Touring Versailles in Paris with my daughter, I witnessed visitors willing to stand 3 hours in line to enjoy a 25-minute walk through the palace using their smartphones to create selfie memories of rooms and statues, pictures they could have downloaded for free on the internet.

Real Estate Developers must reinvent themselves to bring engaging and memorable experiences to their properties.  Efficiencies are now the new 'norm', booking a restaurant on OpenTable in a few seconds, review and book a hotel via Expedia and of course the proclaimed Retail future “Alexa” from Amazon, however, the actual experience will never be replaced by technology. Amazon and Walmart will become the sole stores for everything we think we need in one place at one “Prime” click. The meaningful social experience of restaurants, bars, customized boutique stores simply connecting with qualified sales staff, enjoying life with family and friends or touring culture will only be found in the real and not virtual or augmented world we are learning to live in.

Michael Braun -

Palm Springs Making a Modern Village | Palm Springs Life

Palm Springs Making a Modern Village | Palm Springs Life


Downtown Palm Springs Aerial

Over the past decade the City of Palm Springs has worked diligently to do the impossible — retain the small-town, village atmosphere from the 1920s and still be a 21st century hotspot.

With involved leaders, residents, and businesses, that blend is becoming a reality.

The Downtown Project has been the key to revitalizing the city with its mix of retail, restaurants, office space, and hotels with a fresh face that plays on the city’s pristine midcentury architectural past. The Palm Springs International Film Festival entices industry executives and film lovers in January and the multi-generational Tour de Palm Springs adds thousands of cyclists from all over the country in February.

More events like the Splash House summer concerts in June and August and Comic Con brings 20-somethings, hipsters and SciFi/Fantasy lovers of all ages to the desert to enjoy the August heat.

These events, along with Modernism Week in February and its preview weekend in October have changed the perception of the Coachella Valley’s gateway city around the world.

For City Manager David Ready, the past 17 years have been crucial in defining the city’s goals, including a downtown that meets the needs of visitors and residents.

The Downtown Project, he says, plays a key role when it comes to giving visitors and residents the experience both are looking for.

We have the best of both worlds with the Downtown and Uptown districts on Palm Canyon,” Ready says. “The new hotels, retail, and restaurants, add a new demographic to the mix we are seeing.”

Summer events geared to a younger audience have seen Palm Springs bloom as a year-round destination for snowbirds from Canada and across the country to the SoCal drive market who come out for midweek or weekend visits when hotel rates are less expensive.

The number of hotels in the city has grown, and there is added interest from luxury chains that might have passed on Palm Springs in earlier years. Kimpton’s The Rowan Palm Springs, which anchors the Downtown Project on Tahquitz Canyon Way is set to open by early December 2017, according to Michael Braun, President of Grit Development. The Virgin Hotel, while slightly delayed, is expected to break ground in Summer 2018 and open for business in 2020.

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KESQ EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Rowan Palm Springs

Bianca Rae gets an exclusive tour

Image: KESQ | 4Saints Palm Springs Restaurant on the Roofdeck

Image: KESQ | 4Saints Palm Springs Restaurant on the Roofdeck

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Perhaps the best way to put Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs in perspective is to hear it described by someone who has worked at 12 of the brand's hotels in five different locations. 

"This one is hard to place, it's so far and beyond," Abe Liao, the general manager of The Rowan, said. 

He gave me his very first TV interview about the hotel.

Palm Springs is a great cross of art and culture and dining. At the heart is the redevelopment project, and at the heart of that is our hotel," he said. 

We are giving you a first look. 

"We're 153 guest rooms, 1/3 are upgraded between suites, oversized rooms, mountain views. Total event space 4000 in the building and when you consider the rooftop it grows to over 10,000 square feet. We anticipate being very popular for events," Liao said. "The views are unparalleled. It's magical being right up against the base and peer out over the mountains. It's something special."
The Rowan not only has spectacular mountain views, it's also dishing out various dining experiences.

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Redefining Downtown

Palm Springs Life Sneak Peak inside The Rowan Hotel, a botique hotel in Downtown Palm Springs

KMIR: Downtown Kimpton Boutique Hotel Makes Progress

Click to Watch Video from KMIR

Downtown Palm Springs, CA

Last we toured The Rowan by Kimpton, in Downtown Palm Springs, many of the rooms didn't have walls and now most of the fixtures and flooring are in and while it's not quite ready for guests to check in, the hotel has made huge progress. The hotel is part of the Downtown Redevelopment Project's $150 million first phase that includes apartments and offices.  

Just four months ago, the outside still had scaffolding, but now, it's looking more and more like the boutique hotel the now CEO of Grit Development, Michael Braun, envisioned.

"We're really happy about the progress the project is on time right now it will open up this fall," says Braun.

The living room area where guests and locals are invited to meet and mingle has been transformed by warm woods.

"We need to be good neighbors with this project, it needs to basically fit in with the makeup of Palm Springs," says Braun. 

Now the grand fire place, surrounded by a giant bookshelf, made by local woodworker, Paul Kaufmann, is looking more inviting.

"The hotel is 95 percent complete ... we're basically down to the last details that need to be executed," says Braun. 

The Rowan's 150  rooms are just about  guest ready.

Braun says many are designed  with families in mind, "A lot of suites 32 connecting rooms  so that families can stay there with their children," adding families are their main demographic. 

Almost all rooms have incredible views but the event room, is special thanks to walls that disappear merging the space with endless views of Palm Springs.

"We always knew we just cannot build a box for visitors to come here we need to do something architecturally significant ... to bring another landmark to Downtown Palm Springs," says Braun. 

Braun tells me the hotel is set to open in November and will bring 180 jobs to Palm Springs, adding that projections show it will bring $100 million over the next 30 years in tax revenue alone

To see original story visit: KMIR Stay Tuned for more updates on The Rowan Palm Springs

Valley Voice: New park will cap Palm Springs makeover

Valley Voice: New park will cap Palm Springs makeover

The new park in Downtown Palm Springs will cap Palm Springs Makeover. Everyone will be able to enjoy the city and park setting while dining and shopping and taking in what Palm Springs has to offer.

Sneak Peek: Kimpton’s Latest Resort Brings Modern Luxury to Palm Springs

Sneak Peek: Kimpton’s Latest Resort Brings Modern Luxury to Palm Springs

BY PHOEBE NEUMAN ON JULY 21, 2017 | Robb Report

The sleek hotel will boast some of the best views—and the only rooftop pool—in town.

Dusty Palm Springs is in the midst of a major revitalization, with a flux of new restaurants, boutiques, and luxurious hotel opening in the heart of the resort town. Leading the charge of city’s modern transformation is Kimpton The Rowan Palm Springs, which will be downtown Palm Spring’s first new build hotel to open in decades when it welcomes its inaugural set of guests in October.

The Rowan marks Kimpton’s first venture into the region, and the brand—which is largely known for luxurious urban oases—has artfully mixed its city-slicker style with the midcentury modern high-desert design that has come to define Palm Springs. The resulting sleek seven-story building is filled with natural light—making the most of the dramatic San Jacinto Mountains and Coachella Valley vistas by employing windows at every turn. For an even better way to take in the sweeping views, guests of the hotel can head to the rooftop—which is the highest rooftop in the city, and the only one to feature a sparklingly blue pool.

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Kimpton Rowan Hotel Room

Kimpton Rowan Hotel Room


In News by Brian Lipton

Grit Development’s new multi-use project in downtown Palm Springs, California will have a grand opening this November, with such tenants as apparel retailer H&M, ski care retailer Kiehl’s, and island-inspired Tommy Bahama restaurant and bar having recently signed on to the project.

The new development will be anchored by the Kimpton Rowan Hotel, scheduled to debut in September, which will feature the city’s first-ever rooftop bar and pool. Furniture retailer West Elm already opened in the space last fall, and additional tenants will include Free People, Francesca’s, and Starbucks Reserve.

“After a decade of planning and hard work, we’re thrilled to share the project is near completion,” said Grit Development’s president Michael Braun. “Once complete, this project will put Palm Springs back on the map as a top destination. Visitors can enjoy staying at luxurious accommodations, shopping eclectic brands and dining at incredible restaurants — all within walking distance and surrounded by beautiful scenery and views few can match.”

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