Developers hold groundbreaking for Hotel Elkhart renovations

MARSHALL KING PHOTODevelopers of the Elkhart Hotel use sledge hammers during a ceremony Thursday to begin the renovation project that will create a boutique hotel in downtown Elkhart.

ELKHART —The building at 500 S. Main St. has been a landmark in downtown since it was constructed as Hotel Elkhart in the early 1920s.

After decades of other uses, the big brick building is on its way to becoming Hotel Elkhart again.

About 100 people gathered Thursday afternoon for a “groundbreaking” as construction begins. After the speeches, four men in suits swung sledgehammers into a wall in the hallway of the first floor.

Cressy Commercial Real Estate is redeveloping the building to open in 2020 with 93 rooms in a boutique hotel. It’s the first hospitality-oriented project for the company, said Edward Bradley, senior vice president and principal for Cressy.

The Athenian Ballroom on the ninth floor will be renovated and a rooftop deck will be added. A taproom with local beers is planned for the first floor and South Bend Chocolate Co. will open a cafe on the corner of Marion and Main in the building. It’ll be the 14th cafe for the company and is long overdue in Elkhart County given the support for the company’s products there, said President Mark Tarner.

The $15 million project started as an idea of Dan Boecher and Shane Dyer.

Greencroft took over the building in 1974 and the city’s other downtown hotel left in the early 1990s. The building has been used as an office building and housed a number of restaurants over the years and since 1997 had low-income apartments under the Elkhart Housing Partnership.

Bradley said the hotel was unlike any in the region when it was built.

“One hundred years later, we feel Hotel Elkhart will be reborn as the place to be,” he said.

Two studies showed there will be demand for a boutique hotel downtown, Bradley said. “The people who are traveling now want an experiential destination,” he said.

Elkhart City Council president Brian Dickerson thanks the many partners who came together around the project.

“Elkhart has wanted a hotel downtown for many years and it’s going to be an exciting amenity for years to come,” he said.

The city loaned $2.5 million to the project via a tax increment finance district, Bradley said.

Thursday’s event included the announcement that Mno-Bmadsen, the economic development arm of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, is helping fund the project. In addition, $900,000 of Regional Cities money helped it happen.

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