As the finishing touches are put on the Kinn Guesthouse on Broadway, we got a peek inside the new Downtown hotel.
The 31-room hotel – designed by Vetter Architects and built by Pepper Construction – features communal spaces, including a shared kitchen, on each floor of guest rooms.
There will also be libraries, games, laundry facilities and meeting rooms. Pets are welcome in four rooms on the first floor.
Each of three upper floors has nine rooms, plus dedicated facilities – like the kitchen and laundry.
The hotel – which has a smaller iteration in Bay View that opened in 2017 – will offer zero-contact check-in, advanced COVID-19 safety and air-filtration systems, and a 24-hour interactive concierge with communication apps.
Morr Events and Hidden Kitchen will collaborate to run The Lookout, 3,500 square feet of indoor/outdoor rooftop event space that offers great views of the skyline.
That area will have room for 125 seated guests and will be available for all kinds of events, including weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate and charity events.
Recently, Uncle Wolfie's owners Wolfgang Schaefer and Whitney McAllister announced they would open The Wolf on Broadway in the hotel's lobby by summer.
“We want our guests to feel a sense of connection with the space, like they are living here, not just staying here. This inspired the design of the common area – creating a sense of openness, connectivity and community for our guests," owner Charles Bailey told me.
“Travelers today more than ever are looking for unique and authentic experiences in the destination, activities and the lodging as well.”
We took a look at the 1860s-era building's history last summer, at which time, the paint had been removed from the exterior and owner Charles Bailey pivoted and decided to leave the cream city brick unpainted.
However, he was compelled to follow the original plan approved by the National Parks Service – which oversees buildings on the National Register of Historic Places – and paint the brick or redo the rooftop addition.
"This whole rooftop thing ... they made us do all these things, setbacks so you can't see it from any angle," Bailey said. "And then we stripped the building, I'm like, 'This is beautiful, I want to leave it.' Then we asked them and they said, frankly, 'Well, you're going to have to change the color up on the top'."
That work would've added further expense and delays to a project already affected by pandemic supply chain shortages and construction-related cost increases.
"We had already ordered everything," said Bailey. "The supply chain problems were five months, six months lead time. So you can't react like that in that environment.
"You would think they would bend over backward for us to be able to keep the brick exposed, as it originally was, but that's not the case," said Bailey. "It was really, to me, a huge disappointment."
Still, the place looks great. The rooms are spacious and their large windows open onto views of the historic Hilton Garden Inn and Mitchell and Mackie Buildings across the street.
The wooden entry doors will be stained to preserve their beauty and the floor inside the lobby is a sort of terrazzo look that is unique.
Most of the lobby will be taken up by the restaurant and its accompanying shop, which will be like the one at Uncle Wolfie's.
The Kinn Guesthouse is expected to welcome guests beginning in March. The initial plan called for a December opening, which had then been pushed back to the beginning of March.
"If something is delayed on a construction project, it's a whole chain reaction of other things that fall," Bailey said. "We had every intention of getting the furniture coming in at the end of this month. They were delayed for various reasons, and now they have to push out a week, which pushed me into that NCAA tournament week."
"And that just killed this, because it was a really, really good week."
At the moment, Kinn hasn't been taking any bookings until late March, to avoid having to cancel any guest reservations.
"We've blocked the whole time," said Bailey. "I just think it's really bad policy to have to bump people. We don't want to do that.
"But we have taken a lot of bookings. A lot of group events. We're taking wedding reservations and things like that. We have a bunch in April. We're fine in April. This will be done in the second week of March."
Here are photos from our visit. Remember that work is continuing, so there are many unfinished elements in these pictures.
The rooftop event space
Corner guest room
Guest room bath
Guest room furniture
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.