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Lafayette Hotel Renovation in Full Swing

Rocco Termini’s ambitious Hotel Lafayette redevelopment project is progressing quickly.  At least two components are likely to be completed by the time the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference is held.  Work crews are hurrying to ready the Dutch Grill and much of the Crystal Ballroom for the October event.

The 367-room Lafayette Hotel, in its prime, was considered one of the 15 finest hotels in the country. It was designed principally by Louise Blanchard Bethune, the first professional woman architect in the country, the first female member of the American Institute of Architects, and the first woman to be made a Fellow of the A.I.A.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last August.

laf277.jpgRenovation plans for the $40 million project are being prepared by architecture and engineering firm Carmina Wood Morris. R&P Oak Hill is the general contractor.

The building is currently on schedule to be ready for tenants to set up by April 1st next year with the grand opening date slated for May 1st. Termini is calling the project the Hotel at Lafayette.

While very few alterations have been made to the exterior since the building’s construction, the same cannot be said of the interior.  ‘Renovations,’ neglect and water damage have taken their toll on the interior. 

laf222.jpgWork crews have gutted much of the building, are clearing the building of debris and furnishings, and are removing dropped ceilings and other historically inaccurate “renovations” that have been done over the past few decades.

laf25.jpgOne of the most dramatic changes to the hotel’s interior occurred in 1942, when an Art Deco lobby was installed.  The Art Deco in the lobby and several other areas will remain.  Other areas on the ground floor will be restored to their original design (see history of the building’s interior here).

Termini has secured an impressive lineup of tenants to essentially fill the building’s lower floors. 

laf266.jpgSea Bar Chef Michael Andrzejewski will be opening Michael A’s Steakhouse in the former Dutch Grill Room, later remodeled as the Lafayette Room, that is located along the Clinton Street side of the building (above).  Despite many modifications including its use by a radio station, it retains a high degree of its original integrity and is by far the best preserved public space from the original 1904 Bethune designed hotel.  The plasterwork on the walls and ceiling is intact though damaged. Two freestanding columns and pilasters along the walls support this vaulted ceiling.  The offices and sound studios were constructed largely without disturbing the wood and plasterwork of the original space, now exposed.

Michael A’s Steakhouse will also utilize the former Lobby Lounge located behind the elevators.  This will become a bar and lounge for the steakhouse and will keep its Art Deco styling. 

Woyshner’s Flower Shop will open a store on the first floor at the corner of Clinton and Washington streets.  The space was used as a pharmacy for many years but in the recent past was an optical office.  It will retain its Art Deco style.  A jeweler is taking space off of the main lobby where a nail salon was located.  Get Dressed is also opening in the building.

laf24.jpgAlong Washington Street, the former Lafayette Tap Room space (above) is going to be run by Earl Ketry of Pearl Street Grille and Brewery.  He was also be taking the old Lafayette Coffee Shop space (between the lobby and Tap Room fronting Washington Street) that will be returned to its original 1904 Outer Dining Room appearance.  Banquet facilities for the Tap Room will be located on the second floor in former service areas of the building.

laf2222.jpgThe rear of the building is all becoming Marquis de Lafayette run by restaurateur Bill Koessler.  The Crystal Dining Room (along Clinton Street east of the future steak house space, photo above), Grand Ball Room (photo below) and AAA Room (south side of the building) will be banquet facilities.

laf21.jpgIn the old speak easy in the basement, Butterwood Bakery is opening a dessert bar and restaurant.  That space will be accessible from Ellicott Street.

laf211.jpgThe greatest challenge with the main floor is the amount of plaster work which needs to be done. Most of the plaster can be repaired, but some has deteriorated to nothing and will need to be replicated and replaced. 

The second floor will be used as the hotel aspect of the project, providing thirty four rooms.  One hundred and fifteen apartments are planned for the third through seventh floors.

laf288.jpgTermini expects to have a model apartment on the sixth floor completed this month which was coming along nicely on a recent tour (above).  Much of the framing and drywall was already installed and with a small stretch of imagination, it is not difficult to see a beautiful living space taking shape.

laf26.jpgAlthough the project will not be completed until next year, over a dozen weddings have been booked including hotel rooms needed for the wedding parties.  A model hotel suite is expected to be ready this fall.

The $40 million project has a long way to go in a short amount of time, but Termini has a proven track record of getting projects done.  It is on its way.

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Photos by Dylan Marsh

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