Historic Ingalls Building to get new life as hotel

Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-17 17:37:56-04

CINCINNATI -- When the Ingalls Building was built in 1903, one reporter was so sure it would fall down that he stayed up all night to record its demise.

He was wrong, and the 16-story building still stands at Fourth and Vine today. Now, it's getting new life as a Downtown hotel.

The Ingalls Building was the world's first reinforced concrete tower. Ernest Ransome developed the technique of reinforcing steel bars within concrete. It's now common practice.

"There are two advantages of concrete, and one is it's less expensive than steel, and also it was highly fire-resistant," said Margo Warminski with the Cincinnati Preservation Association.

Ransome's buildings in San Francisco were so strong they survived the great earthquake. The Ingalls has also survived, but has been empty for seven years.

"It's been growing considerably deteriorated, and we've been concerned about it for some time," Warminski said. "We'll be happy to see it reoccupied and used again."

That's where SREE Hotels of Charlotte, North Carolina stepped in. They asked the Cincinnati City Council's Budget and Finance Committee for tax incentives for the $12 million project.

The project will create 100 temporary construction jobs and 35 permanent jobs with an annual payroll of nearly $1 million when it's open.

"It's a great building," Councilman David Mann said. "I'm so glad that we're not talking about tearing it down. I'm glad that it will be brought back."

The plan calls for the building to be renovated into a 140-room hotel. It will join at least 13 other hotels with more than 4,000 rooms available in the area. But Julie Calvert, the president of the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the market is not oversaturated.

"The variety of hotels in this market — in this region — is unique to Cincinnati," Calvert said. "It's really a selling point for all of us."

According to the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, Cincinnati's occupancy rate for 2016 was 64.3 percent and 64.5 percent in 2017. That's second in the state, only behind Columbus.

Cincinnati room rates have inched higher, up from $101 per night in 2016 to $104 in 2017 and $105 year-to-date in 2018. Calvert said that's "a very good indication that we're a healthy hotel market."

"We're a healthy visitor market. We're a healthy convention market," she said. "And we need to continue to see those numbers go up to drive the economic impact for the region."