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Downtown Omaha's Hotel Deco getting makeover to reopen in historic Redick Tower
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Downtown Omaha's Hotel Deco getting makeover to reopen in historic Redick Tower

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Old Market shop owners look ahead to a better future after setbacks, including fire, protests and a pandemic.

Downtown Omaha's upscale Hotel Deco is undergoing a major rehab and is poised to reopen in the historic Redick Tower at the end of March, about a year after the pandemic forced its closure.

When the 11-story hotel and its Monarch Prime and Bar restaurant were shuttered near the start of the outbreak, about 65 employees were laid off.

To help cover repairs and updating needed to be competitive, the hotel owner is seeking authorization from the city to charge an "enhanced employment area" occupation tax of 2% on hotel and restaurant sales.

Without the tax projected to generate about $2 million over several years, the boutique hotel popular with visiting movie stars, entertainers and business travelers could remain closed indefinitely, according to documents submitted to the Planning Department.

"This industry has just been hit so hard," said Jay Kline, vice president of business development for owner White Lotus Group. "These are challenging times. It's very difficult to keep a hotel operational and alive."

Besides resurrecting jobs, Kline said the property at 1504 Harney St. is an important part of the downtown urban fabric.

The Omaha Planning Department has recommended approval of the Redick Tower redevelopment plan, and the Planning Board is to weigh in on Wednesday.

Known for its art deco architecture, the landmark's 89 guest rooms and common areas are to be substantially renovated at a cost in excess of $7 million, says White Lotus' Arun Agarwal. Offices, laundry facilities and plumbing and electrical systems are being updated, according to the redevelopment plan. The building's exterior is being tuckpointed. The roof is being repaired.

Kline said a national design firm is working to bring the sexy, moody feel and style of the Monarch restaurant into the rest of the hotel. Patrons of the reopened operation will be greeted by a new hotel general manager and new chef.

"The team is coming together. The renovation is coming together. We can't wait to reopen and host people again soon," said Kline, also lifestyle director for Hotel Deco.

Designed by local architect Joseph G. McArthur in 1930, the Redick Tower also houses the Wicked Rabbit speakeasy. In the application that won the structure a spot in the National Registry of Historic Places, it is called the "single most important Art Deco skyscraper in Nebraska." Built as an office tower with an integrated interior parking structure revolutionary for its time, the property in 1989 was converted to a full-service hotel and became the Hotel Deco XV under White Lotus in 2010.


Historic buildings in and around the Old Market

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Cindy covers housing, commercial real estate development and more for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @cgonzalez_owh. Phone: 402-444-1224.

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