LA CROSSE, Wis.—The Charmant Hotel, a 67-room, upscale lifestyle property situated alongside the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis., is scheduled to open in late summer. In collaboration with owner Weber Holdings, Aparium Hotel Group is leading the programming, positioning, and ongoing management of the new hotel project. The $30 million dollar renovation and restoration, let by The Kubala Washatko Architects, a Wisconsin-based architect firm, will transform the historic 19th century building into a locally-curated destination for visitors and locals alike.
The hotel’s name, Charmant, meaning “charming” in French, pays tribute to a premium line of chocolates that were originally produced within the walls of the building, once home to the Joseph B. Funke Candy Company factory in 1898. Construction on the property began in October 2014 with the goal of refurbishing and resurrecting one of the most prominent and historically significant landmarks in the heart of downtown La Crosse.
“This project is particularly special to us, as we’re working to restore a building that holds significant value to the city—both in its history and role in continuous evolution of the community of La Crosse,” said General Manager Sean Castady. “The final result will be a product that combines its vintage roots with a modern twist.”
The Charmant Hotel hosts five stories comprised of 67 guestrooms, including four top-floor suites that provide guests with a wrap-around outdoor balcony featuring views of the Mississippi river and downtown La Crosse. Additionally, the hotel offers approximately 855 square feet of meeting and event space. On the ground floor, food and beverage offerings include a market driven restaurant with rustic French influence; a cocktail bar and lounge; and a coffee and dessert parlor featuring a wood burning fireplace. Most notably, the hotel will boast a 1,110-square-foot rooftop terrace serving up pizzas from a wood burning oven and a selection of regional craft brews.
Led by Simeone Deary Design Group, the design scheme is inspired by the building’s history and prevailing French influence of La Crosse. The details and design harken back to the time of the building’s 19th century glory days as a candy factory. The hotel’s color palette encompasses warm hues of milk chocolate, deep rich tones of dark chocolate, along with blues, florals, and grays. Exposed whitewashed brick, original flooring, and exposed ceilings are also undergoing refurbishment to further celebrate the building’s history.
The Kubala Washatko Architects, a Cedarburg, Wis.-based firm, led the restoration efforts focused on integrating modern hotel amenities and sustainable design strategies, while respecting the historic character and simplicity of the riverfront industrial warehouse building. “Allowing the pure, simple, honest details of the building to remain intact was a key project goal,” TKWA architect Vince Micha said. “We sought to use restraint wherever possible.”
Historic wood ceilings and paneling—originally used to help insulate the chocolate dipping area in the factory during hot summer months—was repurposed throughout the building. The rich, earthy smell of molasses and licorice still permeate the wood flooring used in some guestrooms and in public areas. A new fifth floor addition with guestroom suites and private decks, plus a public bar and roof garden, offers sweeping views of the river and downtown La Crosse. The original historic rooftop water tower was faithfully recreated, and functions as a visual icon in the city and a beacon to visitors.
The Charmant Hotel’s primary restaurant, led by Aparium’s Executive Culinary Director Suzy Crofton and The Charmant Hotel’s Executive Chef Kevin Micheli, will serve rustic French influenced cuisine using fresh ingredients sourced from local and regional farmers and purveyors. Offering daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, the 75-seat restaurant will also offer outdoor patio dining and a private dining room.
Located on the opposite side of the main floor entrance will be the hotel’s parlor, serving as a multi-functional coffee bar by day and a wine and cocktail bar by night. The bar will include a full cocktail menu featuring selections such as scotch, whiskey, and cordials including port and sauternes. Paying homage to the building’s sweet history, the hotel is partnering with Indulgence Chocolatiers to display a selection of handmade truffles, gourmet bars, and other chocolate delicacies for Charmant visitors to consume onsite or take home, in addition to providing a piece for each hotel guest upon check-in. The parlor will also feature locally sourced pastries including macarons, fruit tarts, and croissants.
The Charmant Hotel is the second hotel managed by Aparium Hotel Group, with four new properties scheduled to open throughout 2016. The brand, led by COO Kevin Robinson and CEO Mario Tricoci, is built on the idea of “Translocal Hospitality”—bridging the gap between the traveler and local residents. Having first accomplished this at The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, the Aparium team anticipates continued success at The Charmant Hotel.
“As we move into future ventures and markets, it’s important that we maintain the integrity of our philosophy—identifying soulful communities and making a real connection with their residents, who then become our ambassadors,” Robinson said.