Monumentally Hip Hotel Conversion
Reviving Oakland’s Showstopper
The story of the Fox Oakland Theater is like that of so many movie palaces of the early 20th century. Built in 1928 based on a Middle Eastern-influenced design by architect Charles Peter Weeks and engineer William Peyton Day, the 3,400-seat cinema flourished until the mid-1960s, when the trend toward smaller multiplex theaters took its toll on the Fox Oakland. The city purchased the building in 1996 and, following several restoration projects between 1999 and 2001 to repair the roof and marquee, embarked on an all-out effort to modernize and transform the theater into world-class performing arts venue and dance school for the Oakland School for the Arts.
Milwaukee City Hall: The Handmade Building
When Milwaukee’s City Hall was completed in 1896, it was, at 394 feet in height, the third-tallest structure in the United States. Designed by Henry C. Koch, it was a statement of civic pride and a monument to Milwaukee’s German heritage. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005. Over the building’s century-plus life, the repetitive freeze-thaw cycles of the upper Midwest, combined with the absence of cavity walls for proper drainage, permitted water to damage the building’s entire structure and skin. A multidisciplinary team led by architect Engberg Anderson (restoration design, detailing, and project management), SGH (structural studies, forensic investigations, and design), Bloom Companies (structural engineer) and associate architect Quinn Evans | Architects (historic structures report) was selected to restore the building to its turn of the century splendor.
Gold: The Lion House, Bronx Zoo Bronx, N.Y.
Astor Court sits at the heart of the 265-acre Bronx Zoo, and its six Beaux Arts buildings were constructed at the turn of the 20th century to house exotic animals from around the world. Restoring the Astor Court buildings was a key fixture of the zoo’s 2003 master plan. The Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates from the Bronx Zoo, was tasked with bringing new life to the Lion House. The Building Team of FXFOWLE Architects, Hill International (CM), and MAA Angelides (GC) was tasked with restoring the building and adding 4,800 sf of new exhibit space, 6,700 sf of new plant and animal support space, a 3,500-sf multipurpose event space, and 6,700 sf of mechanical space, all within the building’s existing footprint.
Gold: Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.
The Eisenhower Theater in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., opened in 1971. By the turn of the century, after three-plus decades of heavy use, the 1,142-seat box-within-a-box playhouse on the Potomac was starting to show its age. Poor lighting and tired, worn finishes created a gloomy atmosphere. The onstage HVAC system couldn’t even be used during performances, and there were tons of asbestos in the ceiling. Two years ago, the local office of Quinn Evans | Architects was brought in to work with the Kennedy Center staff and theater users on a renovation. Because the theater hosts a variety of productions-plays, musicals, and contemporary dance-its many stakeholders-from programming and special events to the handicapped accessibility department-had a wide variety of needs.
Gold: Westin Book Cadillac Hotel & Condos
“From eyesore to icon.” That’s how Reconstruction Awards judge K. Nam Shiu so concisely described the restoration effort that turned the decimated Book Cadillac Hotel into a modern hotel and condo development. The tallest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924, the 32-story Renaissance Revival structure was revered as a jewel in the then-bustling Motor City. After several failed attempts by private developers to revive the building, The Ferchill Group, a Cleveland-based developer, finally came up with a winning formula: a partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts involving 22 public and private revenue sources.
Silver: Palmer House Hilton Hotel & Shops
Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton holds the record for the longest continuously operated hotel in North America. It was originally built in 1871 by Potter Palmer, one of America’s first millionaire developers. When it was rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire it became the first hotel in the U.S. to put a telephone in every room. By 2005, however, the Palmer House was in need of significant capital improvements. Marketing studies came back with the same message: The hotel and its retail offering had to be drastically repositioned to meet the demands of today’s traveler and consumer. Chicago architects Loebl Schlossman & Hackl called for 930 guest rooms to be remodeled along with 54 new suites supported by a new executive-level penthouse. Much more than a room remodeling project, the 1.2 million-sf, $170 million renovation included updating everything about the hotel’s retail operation.
Silver: Hanna Theatre, Cleveland, Ohio
Between February 1921 and November 1922 five theaters opened along a short stretch of Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, all of them presenting silent movies, legitimate theater, and vaudeville. During the Great Depression, several of the theaters in the unofficial “Playhouse Square” converted to movie theaters, but they all fell into a death spiral after World War II. By 1969, four of the five were forced to close. Only the Hanna Theatre stayed alive, limping along until it too went dark in 1989. Ten years later, an investment group led by Playhouse Square-a preservation organization that had already saved Hanna’s cousins, the Allen, Ohio, State, and Palace theaters-acquired the historic Hanna Building with the goal of making the Hanna Theatre the permanent home of the Great Lakes Theater Festival. For local A/E firm Westlake Reed Leskosky, the task of revitalizing the Hanna was compounded by the added assignment of making the space conducive to live concerts, stand-up comedy, corporate outings, and other events for which it was never intended.
Silver: Pere Marquette Depot Bay City, Mich.
For 38 years, the Pere Marquette Depot sat boarded up, broken down, and fire damaged. The Prairie-style building, with its distinctive orange iron-brick walls, was once the elegant Bay City, Mich., train station. The facility, which opened in 1904, served the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad Company when the area was the epicenter of lumber processing for the shipbuilding and kit homebuilding industries. It took the depot’s owner, Great Lakes Center Foundation, from 2002 to 2005 to patch together $3.85 million from local, state, and national sources to begin an extensive but frugal renovation that would bring the building back to life as a community center run by the local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and as offices for the Bay Area Community Foundation. The Building Team was headed by Quinn Evans | Architects of Ann Arbor, Mich., with local firms Gregory Construction as GC, and MacMillan Associates Inc. as engineer.
Silver: Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia
Built in 1875 to serve as the art gallery for the Centennial International Exhibition in Fairmount Park, Memorial Hall stands as one of the great civic structures in Philadelphia. The neoclassical building, designed by Fairmount Park Commission engineer Hermann J. Schwarzmann, was one of the first buildings in America to be designed according to the principles of the Beaux Arts movement. In 2002, Memorial Hall received a much-needed jolt when the Please Touch Museum finalized plans to relocate there. The $88 million restoration and adaptive-reuse project took nearly six years from concept through construction, which concluded with the grand opening on October 18, 2008. The project entailed a complete restoration of the exterior granite façade, the 60-foot dome, and all interior paint, plaster, and marble-as well as construction of an addition that houses the museum’s cherished, hundred-year-old Woodside Park Dentzel Carousel.
Bronze and special recognition winners