Construction Begins this Spring on $32 Million Hotel Complex

Louis Krauss

The College will break ground on the construction of a new hotel, restaurant and conference center as an attachment on the Oberlin Inn later this spring. The Inn, which will soon be replaced by a projected 100,000 square-foot complex, will be renamed in honor of Peter B. Lewis, the late philanthropist and chairman of Progressive Insurance Company and the project’s $5 million donor.

“The old [Inn] is falling down and the hotel has serious structural problems. One problem is that the hotel has north, south, east and west wings,” said David Orr, professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and senior advisor to the College’s president.

“It encroaches to the north where we need to expand Hall Auditorium. There have been plans for a black box theater and a green theater and to make major renovations to a building that compares unfavorably with a lot of high school auditoriums.”

Owned by the College, the Inn brings in significant revenue throughout the year from visiting parents, students and hosted events. The building will be part of the new Green Arts District, which will include the hotel-conference center and a renovated Hall Auditorium. The complex will include a 65room hotel, conference center and center for commercial space. According to Orr, the project will meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum rating and be powered entirely by solar panels located north of the athletic fields, as well as being water and heat efficient.

This new building is part of the Oberlin Project, an initiative that includes five objectives for the city including being environmentally friendly and stimulating the local economy. The town’s increase in local businesses paired with the green projects is the start of what Orr hopes will be a city-wide change to better Oberlin as a whole.

“Imagine if people were going to restaurants downtown that are solar-powered, there’s incredible music being played, incredible conferences on issues of the day, and they’re buying local goods and crafts — that’s the goal of the Oberlin Project,” Orr said.

According to Oberlin Public Schools Superintendent John Schroth, local public schools are following in the College’s green footsteps. Schroth shared the district’s plans of a new energy-efficient school building for grades K-12.

“We’re talking about our facilities and the need to build a new carbon-neutral pre-K–12 campus,” Schroth said. “We’re going to have plans and conceptual drawings ready to show this spring. If everything goes right we’ll have an issue on the ballot in November,” Schroth said.

Along with its energy efficient-assets, the new building will stimulate the local economy and create a number of jobs. In town, the Lorain County Joint Vocational School supplies high school students with workforce training and teaches trades such as cooking. JVS will likely send some of its students to the culinary school included in the College’s new hotel.

“I’m excited about the discussions with the Joint Vocational School and [its] culinary department,” said Schroth. “It’s primarily juniors and seniors, and the restaurant has plans to possibly involve high school students in working in the restaurant.”

Like Orr, Schroth believes that the new hotel will increase job opportunities for residents and attract more visitors and prospective students, benefitting the town’s economy.

“As far as an economic driver for the region, this is probably the argest project of Lorain County,” Schroth said.

The total cost of the project is projected to be as much as $32 million, financed by private funding and new market tax credits. Construction will begin later this spring; the hotel is expected to open in January 2016.