SIOUX CITY -- Plans to restore the Warrior Hotel to its former glory have come and gone over the past 40 years, but this time, Amy and Amrit Gill, owners of Restoration St. Louis, say rehabilitation of the historic building is a "done deal."
The humming of construction equipment echoed through the Warrior Monday afternoon as the Gills toured the historic hotel. A buck hoist, a temporary elevator, is being put in place to transport materials to each floor of the Warrior, and demolition work is ongoing in the next-door Davidson Building. A groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the site Tuesday.
"When you do a hotel like this with Marriott's blessing, it can't look like anything else," Amy Gill, president of Checkmate Design, said.
Amrit Gill, president of Restoration St. Louis, interjected, "It has to be unique."
For more than three decades, Lew Weinberg has tried to breathe new life into the Warrior, which was once one of Sioux City's most elegant hotels, and the neighboring Davidson Building. Built in 1930, the 10-story Art Deco-style hotel later fell on hard times and closed in 1976. Since the late 1990s, the boarded-up structure has been red-tagged by the city for building code violations.
Weinberg's development company partnered with Restoration St. Louis, a firm that specializes in historic restorations, to redevelop the 200,000 square feet of combined space in the Warrior and Davidson into a 148-room Marriott Autograph hotel, luxury apartments, bars, restaurants and other retail outlets. The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020.
"Architects are having a lot of fun with it, because the building's built like a wedding cake," Amy Gill said. "Most hotels you strive for uniformity. In this building, uniformity just kind of got thrown out the window."
Amy Gill has a table in her office covered with fabric and carpet swatches in hues of red, dark green and black for the hotel's interior. The Gills are seeking old photos of the hotel in hopes of evoking some the Warrior's original charm in its public spaces, while adding modern amenities.
The project started out with an estimated cost of $56 million based on preliminary drawings, but that figure has since risen to $73 million, largely due to construction cost inflation, according to Amrit Gill, who said financing for the project closed in December.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority awarded the project more than $11.3 million in historic preservation tax credits, which is $5 million short of the $16.5 million the Sioux City Council agreed to guarantee. The project could be awarded the additional $5 million in the state's next budget year.
Patrons who enter the hotel on Sixth Street will find a large fireplace behind the marble and wrought iron grand staircase. They'll be able to take the staircase or elevators up to the second floor, where the lobby will be located. Amy Gill said niches behind the front desk will house paintings, while a cage of live goldfinches will sit by the elevators. Goldfinches also appear in detailing outside the building and in the hotel's logo.
"On the outside of the building are these terra cotta pieces and they have goldfinches, which is the state bird of Iowa," Amy Gill explained. "It'll give it a natural feel and also be kind of a homage to Iowa. I think it's really fun."
Plaster ornamentation in the lobby features buffalo heads, fish and the Greek Key, an interlocking rectangular pattern constructed from a continuous line.
"The plaster is very eclectic. It's so different than a lot of the buildings that we've done," said Amrit Gill, who said a restaurant and bar, which will open to the lobby, will make the space a "really active" place.
The hotel will also feature a ballroom, pre-function space, luxury spa, pool, business and exercise centers, commercial space on the first floor, and a six-lane bowling alley with a club-like atmosphere.
"All these things people can come and enjoy," said Amrit Gill, who said the project will be "very inclusive" of people in the community and spur additional development in the city's downtown by his firm and others.
"Once you start, you just keep going and the development keeps going," he said.