A new independent boutique hotel in downtown Milwaukee's East Town neighborhood will host its first guests this weekend, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that is keeping many travelers home.
The 17-room Dubbel Dutch
opened this week at 817 N. Marshall St.Boutique hotel Dubbel Dutch opens in downtown Milwaukee, after a months-long restoration of the historic Charles A. Koeffler Jr. House.
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The project, which remained on track amid COVID-19, preserved much the building's Period Revival architecture. But with a contactless self check-in, modern furnishings and soon-to-open new restaurant concept, the hotel is hardly old-fashioned.
"We really tried to retain everything we could about its historic character and then overlaid contemporary," said co-developer Juli Kaufmann of Fix Development LLC.
The 122-year-old side-by-side, or double house, had been on the market for several years and was in disrepair before Kaufmann, Andy Braatz of Braatz Building Inc., and Patrick Jones of Ramsey Jones Architects decided to step in.
"It's this classic story of drinking craft beer at a local pub," said Kaufmann, noting the pub was Company Brewing in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood.
The local developers, at the time, had recently finished up another restoration of what's now Cream City Hostel in Riverwest. They were familiar with the Marshall Street building, each having looked at it with different clients who weren't up for the challenge.
"A lot of historic buildings like this in Milwaukee languish, they get torn down," said Kaufmann. "Well, we were having a beer and we were like, 'We know this building better than anybody, we should do this.'"
Neither of the developers had built a hotel before, much less operated one, but it's pushed them to be creative and innovative in the process, she said. The team secured a federal historic designation for the project after purchasing the building in September 2019.
The COVID-19 crisis has been an unexpected hurdle, but it didn't entirely derail their vision. Some elements such as the Airbnb-style self check-in process and separate HVAC systems in each guest room (instead of central air) were part of the original plan, but are now considered the standard for hotel health and safety.
In the interest of safety, reservations are booked 24 to 48 hours apart and housekeeping services while a guest is staying are available by request only. There are hand sanitizing stations in common areas and all hard surfaces and high-contact points in public bathrooms and common areas are frequently sanitized.
With space to sleep up to 44 people, the entire Dubbel Dutch hotel can be rented by groups of friends and family gathering for weddings or other celebrations, said Kaufmann. There's also an option to rent one whole side of the building-- the south side has nine rooms, while the north side has eight rooms.
No two guest rooms are the same, and the three upper-level suites are large enough to sleep a small family or double as bridal party ready-rooms.
Kaufmann said the hotel is keeping its rates low for now, knowing demand will be slow.
"We know it's not going to be banging out the door, but there are some people who have to travel still for work," she said. "There are some people who just want a staycation get-away, just to get out of the house."
Its ground-floor restaurant Horned Hare
is slated to open "soon," she said, although a target date has not been set. The European-style restaurant and cocktail bar is a concept by the operators of Snack Boys
, John Revord, Mitchell Ciohon, Eamonn Keyes. They're joined by Katrina Cary, general manager of Boone & Crockett, and investors Suzanne and Kurt Konicke.
The day-to-day operations at the Dubbel Dutch are run by its two house managers and only employees, Meghan Keyes and Anne Koller. Keyes handles guest experience and operations, while Koller will focus on partnerships and community events.