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As Covington Awaits Boutique Hotel, 3 Questions with Louisville's 21C

As The Hotel Covington prepares to take over City Hall (with work on the former Coppin's Building expected to begin in the fall), The River City News visited a boutique hotel in Louisville to learn more about the economic impact such establishments have on its surrounding areas.

Nestled in a part of Downtown Louisville, the 21c Museum Hotel boasts ninety rooms throughout its five renovated former warehouses. It also features an art museum that is free to guests and outside visitors all day every day. The 21c in Kentucky's largest city has since spawned others in Cincinnati and Bentonville, Arkansas. Another is planned for Lexington.

At its original location in Downtown Louisville, philanthropists and contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson aimed to make a considerable contribution toward the revitalization efforts in their hometown. Those plans led to the development of the 21c which, in the years since, has been honored multiple times by readers of Conde Nast Traveler as one of the top ten hotels in the world.

Since its opening seven years ago, new life has been breathed into a formerly dormant section of Downtown Louisville.

Craig Pishotti, Vice President of Hotel Operations for 21c, met with The River City News in Louisville on Monday and offered responses to three questions that could be relatable to Covington's efforts with its new boutique hotel.

RCN: What impact did your hotel have on the immediate surroundings from a commercial and residential standpoint?

PISHOTTI: Anecdotally, we know that business has thrived since 21c opened in 2006. Foot traffic around the hotel has increased and there are new restaurants and shops. We’ve seen our occupancy, rate and number of annual visitors climb steadily (2012 was 144,922, this is people who have attended cultural events, eaten at the restaurant, stayed at the hotel, attended/hosted events, etc) . When LLB and SW started construction these were five empty buildings aside from a small pizza place. The museums were here and the KY Center, but there were big, empty gaps between them. LLB and SW wanted to support then Mayor Jerry Abramson’s revitalization efforts and to share contemporary art with the public. They also wanted to share contemporary art with the public and preserve farmland.

RCN: Can boutique hotels be a stand-alone stimulator of the economy or do they need some established businesses already serving as anchors?

PISHOTTI: There are always many factors that contribute to the revitalization of any area – be that an entire downtown or a specific area within a larger urban area. When looking at new markets we look for an existing arts and cultural scene that we can add to, a strong local partner and an area where there is a need for an appreciation for food and beverage.

RCN: Can boutique hotels work in every urban market or must they be specifically tailored by project?

PISHOTTI: The unique thing about 21c is that it is more than just a hotel, a place for people to sleep. We are as much a hotel for travelers as we are a cultural center for the community. We host Yoga with Art every Sunday at each of our properties, artist lectures, film screenings, free docent tours and other live performance events. In each market we work with local cultural institutions, for example Louisville Film Society or Sarabande books for Louisville’s poetry series, to tailor our programming to that community. Our museum exhibitions change frequently and are open free of charge 24/7. We’ve had great success in Louisville and the reception in Cincinnati and Bentonville has been wonderful.

Stories about The Hotel Covington:

Checking In: Covington City Hall to Become Landmark Hotel

Developers of The Hotel Covington Aim for Local Beehive

Exclusive: New Details on The Hotel Covington

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

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