Stay in the Loop

Hewing Hotel leans into North Loop

 : Finance & CommerceNovember 29, 2016
Though the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis’ North Loop opened for the first time Nov. 17, the 93,000-square-foot building is filled with relics from the original 1897 structure it occupies.

Half an hour after opening the 124-room hotel, about a dozen diners sat at tables made from the original wood from the first floor of the former Jackson Building. Most of the walls show the exposed brick common in North Loop warehouses, and wide windows once used to showcase tractors and other farm equipment surround the ground floor.

Yellow, leather silverware holders sit on the old wood tables in the hotel’s Tullibee restaurant, an eatery created just for the Hewing. The leather holders were made by Leather Works, a St. Paul-based company that got its start in 1999 in the basement of the old building, at 300 Washington Ave. N., said Jenai Sele, the hotel’s director of sales, during a tour of the property on opening day.

“It really is crucial that we get a space where … everything is local and we are totally embraced and involved in the local community,” she said.

In the competitive Twin Cities hotel market, where more than 1,500 hotel rooms have been recently proposed or built in downtown Minneapolis, it’s that local touch that will help set the Hewing apart, Sele said.

Despite the recent downtown hotel boom, Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, thinks there’s room for the Hewing.

“The Hewing is going to appeal to folks who don’t want to be in the core, but want to be in a hot and interesting neighborhood like North Loop,” said Cramer, who also is in charge of the Downtown Improvement District. “That’s going to be different from someone who wants to be over by Nicollet Mall or … U.S. Bank Stadium.”

Nearly every detail in the building was locally designed and made for the hotel. Sometimes the custom detailing was done out of necessity.

Designers at Minneapolis-based ESG Architects worked hard to keep as much of the original wood and brick in getting the structure up to code for a hotel and restaurant, Sele, said. The $31 million project was co-developed by Milwaukee-based Fe Equus and Chicago-based Aparium Hotels. Greiner Construction, of Minneapolis, was the contractor for the development.

The upper four floors of the hotel have 38 different layouts for 124 guest rooms, including 13 suites. There’s nothing cookie-cutter about the rooms because of a series of additions to the five-story building at different times and by different owners during its 120-year history, said Ann Fritz, partner and director of interiors at ESG.

“The ceiling heights change in every floor, the ceiling conditions change in every floor, the window configurations and height of the windows change,” she said.

Some walls in the building consisted of old doors that had been nailed together, Fritz said. Coordinating the electrical outlets and furniture placement in each floor and each room was a challenge.

For the guest rooms, local artists made every piece of art specifically for the hotel, including the prints hanging on the walls and the small, painted antler that sits on a shelf in every room. ESG Architects designed the wallpaper, which is adorned with loons and deer.

“The kinds of projects that make us love our job and be passionate about design are the ones like the Hewing, where we are challenged and we can tell a story,” Fritz said.

In the central atrium of the hotel, large silver and purple glass raindrops hang from the ceiling.  The purple drops are a nod to Prince, who died while Minneapolis-based Foci – Minnesota Center for Glass Arts was hand-blowing the glass for the hotel earlier this year, Sele said.

All those details are meant to remind visitors that they are in Minnesota at every turn, including the small axe in a display case hanging over the toilets in each room.

“It’s a nod to our lumber mill days,” Sele said, adding that even the name of the hotel is inspired by Minneapolis loggers from more than a century ago. The word hewing is the term for turning raw wood into timber.

Next month, the owner will open the Hewing’s rooftop with a cocktail bar, lounge, sauna and a small pool that will convert into a hot tub in the colder months. On the ground level, the restaurant will also have a private dining area that seats 36 people.

Currently, rooms are going for between $160 and $229 a night. Next year, they’ll be closer to $300 nightly, according to Sele. In 2017 the hotel will launch a social club membership that will provide community members with more access to those amenities, even when they don’t book a room.

“We built this hotel for the community,” Mario Tricoci, CEO and managing partner of Aparium, said in a statement. “Our goal is to serve as a social anchor for Minneapolis’s North Loop.”

The Hewing Hotel, at 300 Washington Ave. in Minneapolis, occupies an 1897 five-story building in the city’s North Loop neighborhood. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

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