Restoration St. Louis will showcase the talents of the Midwest's premier and emerging artists when it takes the wraps off its newest downtown Davenport hotel — The Current Iowa.
The hotel, now under construction in the former Putnam Building, marks the second phase of a $60 million redevelopment project known as City Square by Amrit and Amy Gill's development company, Restoration St. Louis.
The Current, for short, will transform the former office building at 2nd and Main streets into a 78-room art-inspired, boutique hotel.
Like its sister Hotel Blackhawk, the new $33 million hotel will be part of the Marriott Autograph Collection. It is an affiliation with Marriott International shared by only 130 one-of-a-kind hotels. Davenport's Hotel Blackhawk currently is the only Iowa hotel in the collection.
"If the Blackhawk is the older sister — cool and conservative, The Current is its hipster younger sister,'' said Amy Gill, president of Checkmate Design, the Gills' architectural company.
"Every hotel has its own vibe. The Hotel Blackhawk is really the grande dame," she said. But The Current, she added will be "hipstoric," a combination of cool and historic.
Just a block from the Figge Art Museum, The Current will be focused on Midwestern hospitality, youthful energy and especially, art and fun — all while honoring the building's rich heritage.
"The Marriott tagline is 'Exactly like nothing else,' and that's what this is," Gill said.
After returning the Hotel Blackhawk to its glory, she said they were challenged to follow that project. "We had to decide how do you make a younger sister that is equally amazing as the Blackhawk, but in a different way."
The eight-story structure is the last building completed by the iconic American architect Daniel Burnham, whose work more than a century ago earned him distinction as a father of the skyscraper.
Harry Lunt, senior vice president for Innkeeper Hospitality Services LLC, which manages the Restoration St. Louis hotel and restaurant portfolio, said the new hotel is making a commitment to art, artists and the community. The hotel will source pieces from many artists from across the Midwest, including the surrounding region, he said.
The hotel will partner with Hot Glass, a nonprofit in downtown Davenport that works with underprivileged youth as well as veterans to teach them glass-making and life skills. Hot Glass opened in July 2014 under the direction of Moline High School art teacher and former football coach Joel Ryser.
Gill said each guest room will have a niche in which a piece of Hot Glass artwork will be displayed with the artisan's name and be for sale.
Renovations are being completed by Russell Construction, Davenport, with architectural design by Checkmate Design.
Art hotel concept
Calling it an "art hotel," Gill said ''When I say that, people expect a Matisse ... or established, famous artists. Ours art will all be by contemporary, living artists. But they all will be juried artists.''
In the company's research on the building's history, Gill said they came across a 1925 editorial in The Davenport Daily Times, a predecessor of the Quad-Cities Times, "that drives us" and now is part of The Current's branding. The editorial read: "Art is a free gift to humanity opening the eyes and heart to higher concepts. The capacity to gain the most from these priceless possessions is to be attained only as we are afforded the opportunity to view them. He who gives in the name of art is giving indeed."
Lunt said there will be traditional art forms such as paintings and photography, much inspired by the nearby Mississippi River. "But art also is fabrics, textures and lights," he said.
Gill said her company is working with the neighboring Figge, including executive director Tim Schiffer, to brainstorm ways to collaborate and increase exposure to the art community.
"The Figge does a great job bringing in national exhibits, but what about all the art we have here at our fingertips?" Gill said, adding that the art hotel idea was, in part, inspired by a Figge exhibit on the Mississippi River.
The exhibit got Gill and staff thinking about who is under-appreciated in the art community, she recalled. "There are the east coast artists, west coast artists, but there is not that much appreciation for the people here."
When completed in summer 2017, The Current will offer a total of 78 traditional and extended-stay rooms, 22 luxury apartments, meeting rooms and exercise facilities, including a pool in the basement. It also will have a club room, a private dining room and two restaurants, one of which will be on the rooftop.
The hotel's second floor, which will house the extended-stay rooms, also will span the top floor of what is known as the Center Building — decades ago it housed the downtown J.C.Penney store. It connects The Putnam with the former Parker Building, which became the first phase completed in City Square. Its office tenants also will have access to the hotel's services and amenities.
Lunt said the rooftop restaurant will include a new indoor space as well as outdoor seating for patrons to enjoy sprawling views of the Mississippi River and downtown. "It will be special for watching the sun rise or sunsets."
Off the main-floor lobby will be another restaurant serving Baja cuisine He said the menu will attract hotel guests as well as downtown patrons.
"This is going to be the place to be and be seen, especially the rooftop,'' Lunt said.