Transforming History into Hospitality: Five Case Studies

By John Tess President & CEO, Heritage Consulting Group | April 15, 2018

Vintage buildings offer an incredible opportunity for hotel developers to create a unique and memorable guest experience.  When that development capitalizes on the 20% federal rehabilitation tax credit, that experience can also be particularly profitable.  Below are five recent case studies.

The Langham (Chicago, IL)

Frequently identified as one of the finest luxury hotels in the United States, the 5-star Langham occupies the lower 13 floors of the 52-story IBM Building in downtown Chicago.  When people think of using vintage buildings as a platform for creating memorable guest experience, skyscrapers from the 1970s do not readily come to mind.  At 695 feet, the Meis van der Rohe tower was built as the regional offices for worldwide corporate giant IBM.  The international style building is a quintessential glass and steel box.  At the time of completion, it was the third tallest building in Chicago.

The idea of adapting a portion of the tower for hotel use germinated in the mid-2000s.  Office tenants were consolidated to the upper floors and project architects focused on carving segmenting the two uses by creating a shared glass partitioned first floor reception areas with exclusive elevators.  The $170 million renovation transformed the one-time office space into magnificent hotel accommodations.  Hotel reception is on the north; office access on the south.  The hotel lobby is located on the second floor along the restaurant and private meeting rooms.  The third floor has a ballroom and the first floor of a two-story spa, the 4th floor has the second floor of the two-story spa and guest rooms, and floors 5-13 are exclusively for guest rooms.  In total, there are 268 guest rooms and 48 suites.  The upper floors remain leased office space, including the headquarters of the American Medical Association.

From arrival on the north shore of the Chicago River, to the elegant lobby and restaurant, to the sweeping guest room views of Chicago’s skyline from the floor to ceiling windows, the Langham provides a unique sense of Chicago architectural history.

The Crawford at Union Station (Denver)

Quite a different experience is the Crawford Hotel in Denver’s Union Station.  As with many passenger rail stations, by the end of the 20th century, Denver’s Union Station was a grand, if aging landmark in the LoDo neighborhood of Downtown.  The station was built in stages beginning between 1881 and 1894 and in the first half of the 20th century over 80 trains served the station on a daily basis.  However, as rail transportation faded across the country, so too did activity at Union Station. By the end of the century, only two trains served the Station.

The Langham occupies the lower 13 floors of the 52-story IBM Building in downtown Chicago
The Crawford Hotel in Denver's Union Station was originally a train station from the late 1800's
The Crawford Hotel's Great Hall
Kimpton's Monaco Hotel in Washington D.C. originally served as a Post Office in 1884
The Argonaut Hotel in San Francisco was originally a canning factory from the early 1900's
Entrance to the the Argonaut Hotel, San Francisco
The Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY first opened in 1877
A guest room in the Adelphi Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY
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Coming up in August 2018...

Food & Beverage: Millennials Rule

The Millennial Generation has surpassed the Baby Boomers to become the largest living generation in America, and their tastes and preferences are being reflected in the Food & Beverage industry. In general, Millennials insist on more natural, healthier, less-processed food and beverage sources, and in part, this inspired the farm-to-table movement. However, now the trend is becoming even more pronounced and hyper-local. Millennials no longer simply want to know their food is farm-to-table, they want to know which farm, and where it's located relative to the community. As a result, hotel F&B directors are redesigning entire menus to feature area brewers, wineries, and family farms. Not only is this a proven way to satisfy Millennial tastes but it also opens the door for hotel guests to enjoy immersive experiences such as tours and excursions to local farms and breweries. Also, thanks in no small part to Millennials, coffee consumption is at an all-time high. In response, F&B directors are creating innovative ways to enhance the coffee experience for guests. Nitro-brewed coffee, cold brew, lattes on draft, and the introduction of unique milk options are part of this trend, as are locally sourced coffee beans where available. Millennial influences can also be found in the Craft and Artisan Cocktail movement where the same preferences for locally sourced and high-quality ingredients apply. One leading hotel even offers a drink menu featuring liquors infused with herbs recommended by experts for their health and well-being benefits. The August issue of the Hotel Business Review will document the trends and challenges in the food and beverage sector, and report on what some leading hotels are doing to enhance this area of their business.