Hawkeye Hotels makes downtown Milwaukee debut with three-hotel opening

See photos of 331-room development along North Jefferson Street

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A three-hotel development by Coralville, Iowa-based Hawkeye Hotels is now open in downtown Milwaukee’s East Town neighborhood.

The newly built Home2 Suites by Hilton, Tru by Hilton and Holiday Inn Express hotels sit side-by-side along North Jefferson Street between East Michigan and East Clybourn streets, totaling two buildings and 331 guest rooms, to be operated by more than 100 employees.

The project marks the first step into the downtown Milwaukee market for the three hotel flags as well as for Hawkeye Hotels. The company owns and operates more than 50 hotels across the U.S., including the Courtyard by Marriott Milwaukee North/Brown Deer and the in-development Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Brookfield.

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“We are very excited to be a part of the downtown Milwaukee community,” Jay Patel, development manager for Hawkeye Hotels said Jay Patel in a press release earlier this week. “Although the market has slowed down in recent times due to COVID-19, we are extremely optimistic that downtown Milwaukee will continue to grow in the years to come.”

Hawkeye partnered with Bloomington, Minnesota-based JR Hospitality on its new downtown project. Construction began in spring of 2019 and remained on track throughout the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Millard Ellis, general manager at Home2 Suites by Hilton and Tru by Hilton. 

Ramping up to full operations during a pandemic could be a different story. Occupancy between the two Hilton Hotels is currently 10 to 15%, having been open for about two weeks.

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“We’re OK with that for the moment, but obviously we want more, we’re hoping for more,” said Ellis.

Christmas is typically a slow time for area hotels anyway, he said, but New Year’s Eve this year could boost occupancy to 30 to 50% depending on the city’s efforts to enforce restrictions on mass public gatherings.

Meanwhile, all three hotels are seeing high interest for room reservations next year during Summerfest, Wisconsin State Fair and the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County, all of which were derailed this year due to the pandemic.

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“Those dates are filling up pretty fast, so that’s another reason we’re feeling optimistic,” said Ellis.

The 115-room Home2 Suites is designed as an extended-stay hotel, with kitchenettes and in-room work space, targeting corporate travelers. That market segment was booming before COVID-19 hit, said Ellis.

The 100-room Tru and 116-room Holiday Inn Express are geared more toward guests staying one to two nights.

“Our location is wonderful because we’re right here for corporate business in Milwaukee, but we’re also close enough for all our leisure business, like for Summerfest and any events happening here,” said David Monte, general manager at Holiday Inn Express. “We’re hoping for recovery.”

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