A century-old warehouse that has sat prominently like a book-end to downtown Moline has begun a new chapter as the Element Moline hotel.
The new $16 million Element by Westin opened its doors last week with a soft opening, hosting its first overnight guests Wednesday.
The opening marked the completion of more than two years of construction and historic renovations as well as years of planning. The 96-room, extended-stay Element will share the spacious structure with Moline's future passenger train station and together, they will be known as The Q.
"It has a historical charm. People are going to fall in love with it," Lauren Johnson, the hotel's sales and marketing director, said during the Element hotel.
Long home to a Sears & Roebuck warehouse, glimpses of its past are still evident in the hotel's architecture including the more than 100 oversized concrete pillars left in place — many exposed. Also left exposed were brick and concrete walls, the new mechanical systems and original concrete ceilings. It all gives "industrial urban" feel, she said.
The hotel was developed by the California-based Amin Group, the owners of the nearby Radisson on John Deere Commons and a partner in the new 5&15 Apartments in the former Chase bank building in downtown Moline.
The Marriott-branded Element encompasses the original six-story warehouse — last occupied by the O'Rourke Bros., as well as a brand new four-floor addition built atop an nearly 80-year-old warehouse addition.
"We're the first Element in the state of Illinois and the only historic adaptive re-use (for Element)," Johnson said. "We're not cookie-cutter at all. We appreciate all the historic significance."
The project, built by Russell Construction, features all modern furnishings, decor and amenities that promote the Element's focus on "healthy alternatives," she said.
The train station, including the Grand Hall, was a renovation completed by Bush Construction.
Working with historic renovation guidelines from city and state preservationists, the design retains as many of the building's original elements as possible. In addition to the pillars, custom windows were built to resemble the original windows, and metal trusses were left exposed and incorporated into the room's designs. Sealed concrete floors and concrete ceilings — imperfections and all — show the building's industrial roots.
Johnson said loft brands are known for their industrial look. "Ours is a step up from that since we recycled a 100-year warehouse."
Also in a nod to its history, one of the two meeting rooms is named the Crandall Room for the building's original owner Crandall Transfer & Warehouse Co. She said the building was built around 1917 or 1918 by Edward Andries and Carl Bergstedt Construction Co.
It is now owned by Moline Promenade Investors LLC, part of the Amin Group.
For downtown Moline, the hotel's development marks a significant step forward in readying The Q for the future arrival of Amtrak service.
"I think the hotel brings attention to the whole facility," said Ray Forsythe, the city of Moline's planning and development director. "Our goal in doing this as a mixed-use building is not just to be a platform and a train station."
According to Forsythe, the hotel owners are negotiating leases with a locally owned restaurant and retailer that will occupy some of the commercial space on the train station side. He would not disclose the tenants.
But that interest, he said "Shows we made the right choice in creating a mixed-use building. They are going in there unsure when the train service is coming."
The $16 million privately-developed hotel will be part of the $39 million to be invested in The Q, including local, state and federal money, Forsythe said.
He said both the hotel's and train station's new parking lots also have been completed.
Forsythe added that the Element's "cool factor" alone will be a draw as well as its extended stay offerings.
A brand known for its sustainability, the Element "believes in comfort with a conscience," Johnson said, adding "We don't want guests to feel they are giving up something."
Art work throughout the hotel is made from all recycled materials and eco-friendly features including free bicycle rentals, energy-efficient appliances and low-flow faucets that will save 3,500 gallons of water a year. In addition, she said refillable soap and shampoo dispensers are installed in the showers to avoid the waste of disposable bottles.
"Every decision we make we think are we leaving too much carbon footprint? Are we thinking of the customers and are we thinking of the planet?" she added.
Johnson knows Element's healthy alternative and green friendly atmosphere might not be for everyone. "We're a different flavor. But when people like us, they're really go to love us."