At the Abraham Lincoln – A Historic Wyndham Hotel located in Reading, Pa., developer and new owner Alan Shuman has the golden touch. He’s is leading an extensive top-to-bottom renovation project that will bring the historic property back to its original shine.
“We’re the only grand historic hotel in Berks County,” says Shuman, who has a degree in history from Penn State University. “I love the historical look. I feel like I’m doing what needs to be done to preserve this for another 100 years.”
Several years ago, when the former owner was looking to sell the Abraham Lincoln, a potential buyer detailed plans to turn the property, built in the 1929, into a $19.95 per night hotel. Shuman, who owns the M&T Bank building on the corner across from the hotel, grew concerned about the type of traffic such low costs would attract.
Shuman stepped in, and his company, Shuman Development Group, settled on the property in April. An arrangement with the previous owner allowed him to begin minor renovations, such as clearing debris, fixing chandeliers, replacing lobby furniture, and restoring the terrazzo flooring that had been covered with carpeting, last December.
“The bones, the basics, were all here,” he says. “It just hadn’t been properly maintained.”
Shuman plans to spend $10 million to renovate the entire property, which includes the hotel, a set of 52 apartments on the top levels of the building, and an adjacent parking garage. In order to retain the Wyndham Hotel flag, Shuman says he consulted with brand executives on itemized renovation plans – including upgrading the presidential ballroom, replacing the HVAC system and kitchen equipment, creating a high-end Victorian Lounge with silk wall coverings, and converting the popular Abe Saloon into a larger space.
The apartments will become extended stay suites with a full private kitchen and private bathroom, and Shuman has already inked a deal with the Reading Royals to become the host hotel for the hockey team, which recently won the Kelly Cup. In the garage, he’s installing new lighting and galvanized stair towers, as well as removing rust from the beams and repainting them silver. Hotel rooms will soon include crown molding and marble tile in the bathroom, among other touches, he says.
“It is expensive to renovate a hotel, but if you do it right, people will love it and you get that money back,” says Shuman, who, with his wife, Marina, culled renovation ideas from visiting the Vanderbilt Grace estate and similar properties in Newport, R.I.
Major renovations are still months away, and Shuman expects the project to last two years. The property will remain open to guests during the changes. For now, Shuman is focused on restoring eye-catching details, including having artist Craig Reiss add decadent 22-karat gold gilding throughout the main lobby and second-floor balcony, and refurbishing the hotel’s 1930s round planter, which was found rusting in the basement. In time, he says, each ceiling tile in the main lobby will also feature Reiss’ hand-painted gold gilding.
“Details make all the difference,” Shuman says. “When it’s completed, we will have a hotel that people will want to visit just to see those details.”