Sometime next year, Sioux City’s historic Warrior Hotel will come back to life. The old art-deco structure, built in 1930, was a jewel of Sioux City’s vibrant historic downtown at the time. Also sometime next year, the neighboring Davidson Building will open as an extension of the hotel, connected by a skywalk.
Since 1976, the Warrior has sat vacant like a towering ghost in Sioux City’s skyline. In that bicentennial year, I was a 20-year-old sophomore at Morningside College working full time for Democratic Congressman Berkley Bedell’s re-election campaign. Democratic headquarters that year was in the storefront of the hotel after it had just closed down, and I remember traipsing into the basement of the hotel where the Pompei Lounge had been.
Lew Weinberg, a well-known local developer whose credits include restoration of the Martin Hotel, has owned the Warrior since 1985 and the Davidson Building since 2005. I sat down with Weinberg recently to discuss the current restoration project.
The fact that the building has escaped the wrecking ball the past 44 years is pretty amazing. According to Weinberg, the City Council in the 1990s was actually making plans to demolish the Warrior until they got the pricetag of well over $1 million. Thank God that failed.
Let me tell you, as a lifelong Sioux Cityan, I am pumped about this project. I believe it has the potential to be transformational to downtown Sioux City. The developer, Restoration St. Louis, has extensive experience in historic restoration, having been involved in over 300 projects including the historic Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport, Iowa, Weinberg said. Much of the old glory of the Warrior will be restored including the brick exterior and terra cotta ornamentation and flourishes including buffalo heads. The second floor lobby and ballrooms are being restored, as well.
According to the developer’s website, the plans are impressive. The grand old hotel should be a hub of activity. It will include a six-lane bowling alley as well as a swimming pool and fitness center. Other shops will include a full service spa, salon/barber shop, and a variety of restaurants. There will be a substantial grand lobby (2,500 square feet), huge ballroom (4,050 square feet) and rooftop restaurant and bar. Connected by the skywalk, floors 2 to 4 of the Davidson Building will have an additional 54 hotel rooms and suites. Floors 5 to 6 will be 22 luxury apartments while the first floor will be commercial, including two restaurants.
The total investment - $73 million.
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It is important to note that the Davidson Building, a pretty massive L-shaped building, is historic in its own right. Also placed on the historic registry, it was Sioux City’s first office building when it was built in 1913.
With the new Marriott Courtyard Hotel going up next to the Convention Center, you hear a lot of skeptics on the street about the ability to fill all of these new hotel rooms. Weinberg doesn’t see the two hotels as in competition since the Warrior will clearly cater to the higher-end customer preferring the feel of a traditional elegant hotel with amenities.
There have been a lot of positive developments in our downtown over the past several years. Historic 4th (f/k/a “lower fourth”) has developed into a solid dining and entertainment area and the Hard Rock continues to pack them in at the east end of downtown. The Woodbury County Courthouse, designed by William Steele, remains one of the most significant public buildings in our state. The neighboring City Hall with its landmark clock tower is a nice complement to the south.
And, although it appears somewhat discombobulated, more housing units are being added all the time.
It is my hope that these two refurbished structures will help bring downtown back to life. Maybe we’re on our way to restoring some of downtown Sioux City’s past glory.
Next week: Linda Holub
A Sioux City resident and local attorney, Al Sturgeon is a former Democratic state representative and senator. He is the father of six children.