For the last decade, Akron developer Tony Troppe has envisioned a hotel as the linchpin in his efforts to redevelop the historic arts district at the north end of downtown.
On New Year’s Eve, his 71-room Blu-Tique Hotel will finally open in the redeveloped 1923 United Building that he and his partners own at the corner of Main and Market streets.
“This is the piece de resistance for sure,” said Troppe, never one to shy away from using grandiose terms.
Troppe spoke Friday morning as he stood in the eight-story hotel’s lobby, a vision of a current interpretation of mid-century modern.
A revolving glass door entrance leads to a space boasting walnut wood finishes, marble and a starburst chandelier hanging above a front desk.
The 50,000-square-foot property — featuring loads of large vertical windows — was built to house the long-gone United Cigar Co. and offices.
Blu-Tique is the second downtown hotel to open since 2016, when the Marriott Northside broke a decades-long lull in new hotels. Before the Marriott opened, downtown for years had only one hotel, the former Ramada Inn, which was called the Akron City Center Hotel when it closed in 2017.
Though the Blu-Tique hotel has passed final inspections, construction workers buzzed about Friday, installing fixtures and final pieces of wall tile.
Visitors will step up from the lobby into a restaurant/lounge area with a bar and a small, elevated serpentine stage for a piano.
Many of the rooms look over Main or Market, and the suites — which have living areas — overlook both. They are in the northwest corner of the building. There is one suite on each of the above-ground eight floors.
The average daily rate will be $139 to $159, with the rate for the suites ranging from $189 to $229.
The hotel has an entrance off East Market to work around the ongoing reconstruction of Main Street downtown. Parking is in the city-owned parking garage next to the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
Turning town Blu
“The Blu Zone is coming together with the entry of the Blu-Tique,” Troppe said of the area that encompasses his Blu Jazz, which opened in 2014 and his Blu Plate restaurant, which started in 2017.
Both Blu Jazz and Blu Plate are in the Hermes Building on East Market, across from the hotel. The Hermes building is across Maiden Lane from Troppe’s Musica, as well as the Crave restaurant, which is housed in another building owned by Troppe and partners.
“We want people to come for dinner, stay for the music, stay for the night. Stay with us,” Troppe said.
“You hear about chains opening up all the time,” he said. “When you open something that’s purely Akron… something that is unique and reflects the personality of a rich, artistic city, that’s rolling out the Blu carpet to the world.”
The hotel opening comes amid other downtown revitalization efforts, including the completion last month of 92 apartments in the Landmark Building at South Main and Bowery, south of Market.
Troppe also is rehabbing his Everett Building, originally built as an opera house in 1891. It’s at Main and Market streets, across from Blu-Tique. The upper floors are being converted into apartments. His initial reconstruction of the building was in the 1990s.
Troppe already has renovated the United Building once, spending $4 million to turn it into attractive office space. That was after he and partners bought the long-vacant structure in 1998 from area businessmen David Brennan and Richard Hamlin.
For Blu-Tique, Troppe teamed up with Pride One Construction and Riley Hotel Group, both in Granger Township, for the $10-plus million project to transform the historic building into an independent, non-branded hotel.
Riley Hotel Group, which will manage the hotel, operates hotel properties in a few states, including independent hotels in Michigan and Key West, Fla., as well as the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center. It also operates six branded hotels in Ohio, including the Hampton Inn and the Staybridge Suites in Stow.
Troppe, Pride One and Riley Hotel Group are all investors in the project, with Pride One also serving as general contractor. This is a first; Troppe has served as general contractor on his other downtown building preservation/renovation projects.
“I think it’s always wanted to be a hip hotel,” Troppe said of the building Friday, adding he envisions bringing Blu hotels to other towns.
For the project, Troppe and partners landed a $1.6 million Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit, as well as a $1.28 million loan from an affiliate of the Development Finance Authority.
The project also has received financing from Cortland Bank, and Village Capital Corp, a community development institution in Cleveland.
Troppe said that “in his lifetime,” he would like to expand Blu, adding 85 rooms on a parcel just east of the United Building. Some of the land is city owned.
Contact reporter Katie Byard at 330-9963781 or [email protected].
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