A revived Omaha gem | InspireDesign Modern imaginative and prescient for at the moment’s lodge
A $ 75 million reinvention of the legendary Omaha Blackstone Hotel from 1915 created the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, a key development in the renaissance of the city’s Blackstone District.
The 205-room hotel is the brand’s first hotel in Nebraska and has been meticulously restored and renovated in collaboration between the design offices Leo A Daly and the DLR Group.
Photos Courtesy: The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel
The designers based themselves on the history of the hotel. “Our design team was inspired by the opportunity to revive the excitement and energy that people experienced at the original hotel,” said Mark Pratt, AIA, Global Practice Director – Hospitality, Leo A Daly. “Its historical size set the tone for a design that embellishes the original story. During our vision and conception, we have withdrawn one fascinating story after another, remembering the luxurious, rich experiences that were lived in a hotel that was often the focus of attention. “
He continued, “We have discovered physical remains from the stories of generations of travelers, celebrities and local residents. This assignment provided an opportunity for our hospitality designers to lead and celebrate a revival of those experiences, redefining and recreating this environment through modern architecture and engineering. We were able to enhance the historical majesty of the hotel and transform it into an authentic, fresh and unique lifestyle destination in the Midwest. This is the recipe for great, inspired design and it is represented in the final product. “
Managed by Pivot Hotels and Resorts, the property was declared an Omaha Landmark in 1983 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The design teams worked together to maintain the integrity and spirit of the original hotel. “The design team has carefully restored the hotel’s historic character, combining bold details, a refreshed palette of heritage sites and contemporary patterns that foster true modern sophistication,” said Staci Patton, Director of the DLR Group. “We took the Blackstone heritage as our guide and reinterpreted this hotel as a feature cinema that inspires our approach to design, a sense of capturing a moment in time and a place where you are and leave as a friend.”
Hand-carved terracotta columns, a marble staircase, original tile and wooden floors and all of the hotel’s 800 windows have been restored and contrasted with modern furniture and amenities. The property’s rooms, including 31 suites, are inspired by the calm and reflective lawns of the original Blackstone property, with calm surfaces, a warm color palette, and classic European revival details. The roof terraces and the historic Schimmel ballroom with vaulted ceilings are ideal for larger social and business events, while a variety of more intimate rooms, including the 300 m² large, are available. The Fitzpatrick Boardroom is ideal for smaller gatherings.
The design and development teams have worked to combine the historic elements with more modern conveniences. “Designing modern amenities while maintaining the historic character of a centuries-old building inspired innovative mechanical, electrical, and structural techniques that really blended with the architectural restoration,” said Kim Cowman, PE, LEED AP, HFDP, National Director of Engineering, Leo A. Daly. “And this building had gone through changes in the last century. What we found behind walls was not always what we expected. The original rooms above the ceiling were built with no HVAC considerations, let alone no technological infrastructure. The sanitary design had to be adapted to the updated layout of the guest rooms. “
The design team worked closely with the contractor to find optimal utility routing solutions and specified construction methods to avoid vibrations on existing foundations. “Design solutions had to be nimble, yet respectful,” said Cowman. “At the same time, they had to restore the destination experience that made the hotel so special decades ago with its luxurious appearance, splendid restaurants and extravagant interior. This historical building could only be successfully modernized through an approach of technical integration into the architecture, whereby the details of its historic past were preserved. “
The furniture chosen for the project is a mix of modern and antique. “The furniture selection is modern, contemporary and in some cases unique, vintage finds from a local antique dealer,” said Patton. “The introduction of modern lighting, surfaces and feelings in masculinity contrast the ornate and feminine characteristics of the historic bones of the space.”
Martin Janousek, AIA, Senior Design Architect, Leo A Daly enjoyed working on the project and found a number of aspects as favorites. “Invigorating spaces that have either been forgotten or neglected over the years, like the great ballroom on the eighth floor with its vaulted ceilings and ornate plasterwork; Rediscovering long-forgotten original mosaic tile floors that have been hidden through time and previous building uses, ”he said. “The new addition and the pool area are also favorites. Their size and design create wonderful spaces for hotel guests, and they extend the design impact – visually and programmatically – to the surrounding neighborhood and Omaha’s thriving Blackstone entertainment district. “
The hotel’s 50-plus art collection, produced entirely by Nebraskan artists, was a Patton favorite. “My favorite aspect of the design is the art curation process with community artist and hotel curator Watie White and the resulting art collection on the property.”
One of the five property-specific assignments comes from Omaha-born fiber and textile artist Celeste Butler, who created a dynamic quilting display that incorporates materials from the original Blackstone Hotel, including a rusted shower drain and poplar leaves.
Janousek found one aspect of the project particularly challenging. “The new addition deliberately adopts a different architectural style than the Renaissance style of the original hotel tower, and the conception was a creative and collaborative challenge,” he said. “Its style corresponds to that of the historic Gold Coast district that forms its backdrop. The addition arose from a story about what might have been, and took up what was once a parking lot next to the original hotel. In that previous story, it essentially became a corrupt package. Our history redesign has helped reclaim the hotel’s space as a social hub and create a better sense of place, wealth and authenticity for a new era of guest experiences. “