One of downtown Akron’s treasured historical buildings, Greystone Hall on High Street, would be transformed into a hotel under a plan involving local and out-of-town partners.
The 1917 structure, an old Masonic building opposite the John S. Knight Convention Center, is now owned by the city and used by the convention center for various events.
Project partners apparently also would build a structure adjacent to Greystone, on what is now a parking lot on High Street, opposite a city-owned parking deck.
The project eventually might expand into the site that is the former High Street Christian Church, whose congregation has moved to Green.
Details of the hotel proposal are to be discussed at a news conference at 11 a.m. today at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High St.
The project group includes Greystone Partners LLC and Amerimar Realty Co. of Philadelphia, whose holdings include the Sheraton in Atlanta and the Hutton in Nashville, a renovated former office building.
On Monday, the city of Akron issued an advisory saying that Mayor Don Plusquellic, along with officials from Greystone Partners LLC and Amerimar Realty, would appear at the news conference.
Bill Ginter of Greystone Partners declined to discuss the project prior to the news conference.
Ginter is retired vice president of operations of what was formerly called Advanced Elastomer Systems in downtown Akron. He is chairman of the board of the All-American Soap Box Derby and also is principal of Akron Legacy Real Estate Development LLC.
News of the proposed hotel at Greystone comes more than two years after area developer Joel Testa said he planned to build a 10-story Northside Courtyard by Marriott, off Howard Street, on the north edge of downtown.
While the site of the planned Marriott remains vacant, Testa has said the project is moving forward. Testa said his project has been delayed by several issues including the design work taking longer than anticipated.
Need for more rooms
City officials have long said the downtown district needs hotel rooms.
Lack of a new or flagship hotel downtown, officials have said, hurts Akron’s ability to attract conventions and other major events.
City spokeswoman Stephanie York said Monday she did not think hotel partners have secured a deal with a national hotel brand.
Those behind the proposal no doubt plan to play up the seven-story Greystone’s historical character in marketing the hotel.
A previous owner of the Greystone property dubbed the building Greystone in reference to the structure’s exterior.
Inside, the building is chock full of marble, plaster and wood craftsmanship and features a large ballroom and large spaces with high ceilings.
Two of the building’s most exotic spaces are a onetime lodge room with Egyptian decor and another room designed like a Doric temple.
Amerimar, headquartered in Philadelphia, has involvement in another notable Akron property: the old, yellow brick Firestone headquarters on South Main Street. Amerimar has expressed interest in buying the former headquarters building and transforming it into office space.
The Firestone headquarters previously housed Bridgestone Corp. workers now based at the new Bridgestone Americas tire and rubber technical center at South Main and Wilbeth Road.
Bob Cooper, director of CBRE Commercial Real Estate Services of Akron, is a partner in the Firestone project, and also is working with partners in the Greystone project.
Won’t be open this year
Cooper said Monday that the hotel would not open this year.
“We’re still working out all the final details,” Cooper said. “It’s going to take a while.”
York, the city spokeswoman, said Monday she had not seen artist renderings of the proposed hotel. She said it is her understanding a new structure would be attached to Greystone. She said activities at Greystone, including play performances by the Actors’ Summit theater troupe, would continue.
Meanwhile, the University of Akron this summer is converting the Quaker Square Inn downtown to all-student housing.
UA bought the iconic Quaker Square shopping, hotel and entertainment complex in 2007 for student use and until earlier this year offered a portion of the rooms to the public.
The Greystone building was last owned by the fraternal group Masons in 1999. That year, developer Jeffrey O’Neil bought the property, paying the Masons $1.075 million.
O’Neil then sold the structure to the city of Akron in 2001 for $2.6 million as a way to finance improvements. The city’s ownership was intended to be temporary, with O’Neil leasing the building back with the intent to buy it.
In 2009, O’Neil, facing a loss in investments in the weak economy, cut his ties to the property, and the city turned over management of the building to the convention center.
Currently, downtown Akron has just one hotel — the aging Akron City Centre Hotel, a former Radisson, off Main Street.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.