While The Statler idles on Niagara Square, there is another major hotel project waiting in the wings on Lafayette Square. If developer Rocco Termini’s lofty renovation of the historic Hotel Lafayette comes to fruition, downtown will have a stunning, fully operational prized jewel in its midst. A walk through the cavernous first floor and basement reveal room after room of ballrooms, banquet areas, restaurant spaces and bar rooms. We’ve all seen the historic photos of the grand hotel, filled with countless guests enjoying the modern luxuries of the day – Rocco is looking to bring a similar commercial occupancy to the building, and while he waits for new market tax credits for work to get underway, he’s in the process of lining up a series of businesses that are clamoring to sign on the dotted line. That doesn’t mean that he’s going to wait for the residential work to commence – Rocco told me that the renovation of those units will begin on Monday!
As workers begin to transform the apartments, Rocco will continue to solidify commercial leases in anticipation of that end of the financing moving forward. One of the operators looking to occupy space in is Earl Ketry from the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery. Earl has set his eyes upon the former Lafayette Tap Room, and is planning to take full advantage of the newly uncovered architectural features (photo: previously hidden by drop ceilings) in what is anticipated to be an impressive Earl-esque bar and restaurant. Butterwood Desserts is planning on moving its main operation into the basement of the hotel, where it anticipates to operate a dessert bar in what was, at one time, a speakeasy. Woyshner’s Flower Shop has reserved a high visibility corner location within the hotel in a large space just off the front lobby. To top is off, Mike Andrzejewski of SeaBar fame is teaming up with Rocco once again, but this time he’s not interested in sushi. Rather he hopes to open a steakhouse called Mike A’s… now there’s a brand.
It only gets better from there. Besides restoring all of the rooms back to their original state, the functionality and flow of space will be restored. Missing and cut off stairways will be reopened and/or reinstalled. The front desk will be converted into a lavish bar that will serve as overflow for an adjoining bar, showcasing much of the original furniture from back in the day. Not all of the original details will be restored however – much of the art deco add-ons will remain intact to show the work of two different time periods of the city and their effects on the building. Drop ceiling after drop ceiling have been removed, exposing detailed ceilings, buried lighting elements, untouched wood and ornamental skylights. Most of the floors have been preserved under cheap laminate tiles – every day there are new discoveries made as chipped paint is scraped off, carpeting is pulled back and wallpaper is pealed away. The hotel may resemble The Titanic (or the Richardson Towers) now, but with the help of historic photos, the plan is to piece together the inner landscape of what will one day be an astonishing renovation.
To walk through the different floors of the building is to walk through what appears to be the set of The Shining – just take a look at the super wide hallways that take up 25% of the space in the building. I was disappointed to find a shopping cart, not a Big Wheel, abandoned just outside of one of the rooms. Then there’s the old Lafayette Bar in the Crystal Ballroom… where’s Lloyd?… and the elevators that, when opened, let the imagination run wild with images of… well, you saw The Shining. The extravagance of the eras is telling, and there is a great story to be told once more in the rebirth of the Hotel Lafayette – a landmark that is centrally located within walking distance of City Hall, the Metro Rail, The Central Library and even The Statler.