Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick
Sept. 27, 2021
ELKHART – An iconic nine-story building in downtown Elkhart is preparing for its first hotel guests in about four decades, following a $23 million renovation. Dignitaries will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday at Hotel Elkhart, a boutique hotel that is part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection of hotels. The nearly 100-year-old building has been under construction for over two years but faced delays because of COVID-19.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Cressy Commercial Real Estate Senior Vice President Eddie Bradley said redevelopment of the complex project was not an easy task.
“Very painstakingly detailed process for the developer, the owner and the architects,” said Bradley. “We brought back a lot of the original luster to the building and the architectural details, just reiterating the authentic renovation.”
The structure was built in 1923 but closed as a hotel in the 1970s. In subsequent years, it was used for office space and senior living. Bradley says there were unique designs challenges to preserve the historic nature of the building, including the facade.
“We made the philosophical decision not to penetrate and not to do the simpler, easier HVAC system because it would be an eyesore and would be a disservice to the architectural integrity of the brickwork and the hotel,” said Bradley, who adds it also increase the cost of the project.
The property now offers 93 rooms, two restaurants, a ballroom, meeting space, and a rooftop bar.
“It shows the luster on the terrazzo floors and the detail work and the ceilings. We’ve got a wonderful ballroom at the very top where we brought back a lot of that original architectural detail, wonderful views…that gives us just a gorgeous panoramic view,” said Bradley.
It was October 2017 when Mishawaka-based Cressy Real Estate announced plans to renovate the near century old building. In February 2018, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has approved a $900,000 grant towards the project as part of its Regional Cities Initiative.
In March 2019, Cressy partnered with Michigan-based Mno-Bmadsen, the independent non-gaming business entity of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians to invest in the redevelopment project.
“We’re incredibly honored to be a partner on this investment and are excited to see this property brought back to life in what are the ancestral lands of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians,” Mno-Bmadsen Chief Executive Officer Julio Martinez said in a news release. “It is a labor of love. Love for Elkhart and love for our community as a whole.”
Martinez says the investment in Hotel Elkhart also has significance for Mno-Bmadsen and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi because it sits on important ancestral land. The tribe is headquartered in Dowagiac, Michigan.
Part of the hotel decor also pays homage to one of the city’s signature industries of the bygone era – musical instruments. In the early 1900s, Elkhart was known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” and had multiple companies manufacturing clarinets, cornets, and other instruments. Three remain today.
“There is a very strong nod to both the 1920s jazz era as well as the musical instrument industry,” said Bradley. “Right now, people are looking for kind of experiential type stays that are meaningful in the sense that they have history. They got some local flavor to it.”
Like the shiny brass instruments that came from Elkhart for decades, Bradley says this effort helps to restore luster to the downtown.
“It required the commitment, perseverance, and partnership from both the public and private sectors to bring it to fruition. This includes the love and support of so many from the Elkhart community who share Hotel Elkhart’s long and rich history.”