InterContinental Hotel in Milwaukee to be converted to independent arts hotel

Change comes as hotels continue to be added downtown

InterContinental Milwaukee

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:53 pm

The InterContinental hotel in downtown Milwaukee is being rebranded by its owner, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, as an independent arts hotel.

The change to the 221-room InterContinental, located at 139 E. Kilbourn Ave., will offer Milwaukee the country’s “most immersive and inviting arts hotel experiences,” according to the company.

InterContinental Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

“The arts spark conversation and debate. The arts inspire and heal. They are part of our daily life, while also serving as an escape,” said Greg Marcus, president and chief executive officer of The Marcus Corp. “For generations, Milwaukee’s arts scene has been central to the city’s health, vibrancy and reputation as a culturally relevant home and destination. By reimagining this hotel’s place in our community, we aspire to serve as a welcoming, freeing space for those who wish to experience Milwaukee through an entirely different lens.”

The property will be redesigned by mid-2019. Marcus said the hotel will close briefly during renovation, although specific dates have not yet been set.

The changes to the hotel come as several new, luxury hotels have been added to the downtown Milwaukee market in recent years, including the Westin, Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, Marriott and Iron Horse.

Marcus Hotels & Resorts, a division of Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp. purchased the InterContinental Milwaukee Hotel in 2006.

The hotel was formerly known as the Wyndham Milwaukee Center. When Marcus purchased the property, the company reflagged the hotel and completed a multimillion-dollar renovation to the property, adding two new bars, Clear and ZenDen, and a new restaurant on the second floor called Kil@wat.

Marcus said the franchisee agreement with IHG, (InterContinental Hotels Group), the company that owns Intercontinental, was up and he decided not to re-engage with the company.

“InterContinental has been an excellent brand and an excellent company, but I felt, given how competitive the downtown market has become we needed to make the hotel more competitive,” Marcus said. “Hotels themselves don’t generate demand. We need to create something to differentiate ourselves.”

The arts hotel will feature collections and standalone pieces from international and local artists, both known and up-and-coming. The hotel will also serve as host to performing arts experiences, building off the Pfister Hotel’s Artist-in-Residence program.

The future of Kil@wat and the hotel bars has not yet been determined, Marcus said.

“The food there is great,” Marcus said. “I would invite anyone to check it out. The culinary team will be with the hotel.”

The 10-story property was built in 1987. It is currently assessed by the City of Milwaukee at $14.8 million.

Greg Hanis, hotel industry analyst and president of New Berlin-based Hospitality Marketers International Inc., said regardless of the future affiliation the Marcus arts hotel has, it is a shame Milwaukee will no longer have an InterContinental hotel.

“There are not many cities that have an InterContinental,” Hanis said. “They are truly a worldwide hotel that put Milwaukee in a totally different class than even the Marriott or Westin does.”

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