In downtown Cincinnati, The Lytle Park Hotel has opened as the first member of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection soft brand in the city, several months after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its planned March debut.
Location, Location, Location
The site for the hotel was selected in 2014, said GM Brett Woods. “We sit in a pretty unique location here in downtown Cincinnati where we're actually located in Lytle Park, which is the main park here in the downtown core.” While the park gives the hotel a bucolic vibe, the world headquarters of several major corporations—including Procter & Gamble, Great American Financial Group and Lytle Park Hotel owner Western & Southern Financial Group—are within walking distance. The combination proved irresistible to the owners, who Woods said were “very passionate about making this area into a hotel.”
With its location in mind, Woods said he expects the hotel to attract higher-end corporate travel and meetings business during the week. “And then weekends would be family and leisure travel targeting those folks with disposable income,” he said.
History and Heritage
The property is an adaptive reuse of two historic buildings. The guestrooms and rooftop bar are in the former Anna Louise Inn, a 1909 hotel developed for women coming from rural communities to work in the city. The other side of the hotel was the Earl Building, constructed in 1919 as residences for the rector of the neighboring Christ Church Cathedral and the director of the Anna Louise Inn. “When the construction began, they connected the two buildings with a large atrium skylight, and that's where the main lobby bar was built,” according to Woods. The hotel’s front desk and lounge take up the center area that connects the two buildings.
“The main focus of the hotel is really bringing the park indoors,” Woods said. The large atrium allows for 18-foot-high trees in the lobby, and San Francisco-based design firm Forrest Perkins gave the guestrooms a biophilic angle with wood tones, natural stone finishes and varying shades of blue to evoke nature.
The original facade of the Anna Louise Inn is now the entryway to the guestroom portion of the hotel, and the old windows were reglazed to meet modern standards while maintaining a traditional aesthetic. “You see those park elements and historical elements throughout the hotel,” Woods said. During the renovation, the team discovered an original fountain from the local Rookwood Pottery Company in the basement, restored it and installed it just off the lobby as an homage to the city’s history.
But while several historical elements have been maintained, Woods said most of the material in the hotel is brand new. “The existing structure stayed the same,” he said, “but otherwise, the inside was all demoed out and put back into place.”
The combination of classic and contemporary made the property a good fit for a soft brand, and Mario San Marco, president of Eagle Realty Group (the real estate arm of Western & Southern Financial Group) announced back in April 2015 that the property would be the first Autograph Collection in the city. “The great thing about Autograph Collection hotels is you're able to design your own brand, and with the two historic buildings being centered in the park, it gives the team a really great opportunity to do something very unique and creative to intertwine all those elements,” Woods said.
The hotel was slated to open on March 19, but as the global pandemic shuttered businesses across the country, the management team and owners agreed on March 16 to postpone the official debut. “We thought it'd be in the best interest of the safety of the community, our associates and the team here on the ground to postpone that until everybody had a better idea and understanding of what was taking place,” Woods said. “I think it was the best decision in the long run.” During the extra months, the team finished up small details that they had planned to work on after opening and were able to open with every element in place.
The Lytle Park Hotel
The hotel is located in Cincinnati's Lytle Park, across the street from the Taft Museum.
NUMBER OF ROOMS
Western & Southern Financial Group
Winegardner & Hammons
“One of the biggest challenges was keeping the team that we had hired engaged and updated, and wanting to come back to the hotel. We had hired and trained over 100 associates that were ready to open in March. With the hotel being closed and a lot of the team on furlough, it was really up to a small group of us to keep the core team engaged. We did weekly updates, a newsletter of what was going on. We did a couple different Zoom calls with the teams just to keep everybody apprised and say hi, and keep everybody motivated and excited to open this great hotel ... About 98 percent of the people that were here with us before came back, so I think from a retention perspective, it was really great to see the fruits of all the training and the communication throughout this process.”