Plans fort he His­torical Keefer House to become high-end hotel are well on their way. Col­legian | Julia Mullins


On the corner of Howell and North Streets in downtown Hillsdale, the 133-year-old his­toric Keefer House sits empty. But not for long.

By the end of 2021, the Keefer House will be trans­formed into a bou­tique hotel. The Keefer House is one piece of downtown Hillsdale’s his­toric ren­o­va­tions.

The Keefer House was pur­chased by Hillsdale’s Tax Increment Finance Authority in October 2016 and then they signed a pur­chase agreement with Keefer House LLC in May 2018. 

Mary Wolfram, who was hired by Hillsdale’s TIFA as a con­sultant to work with C.L. Real Estate, said the mission of TIFA is to get empty buildings rehabbed, rede­veloped, and active to increase eco­nomic activity.

“Looking at what buildings are most important to reac­tivate, the Keefer House is the big white ele­phant in the room,” Wolfram said. “It’s empty, it’s right there in the middle of a key inter­section. It’s kind of the biggest, most obvious thing to do.”

The Keefer House became a hotel in 1885. In recent years, the Keefer was owned by Jeffrey and Marcy Horton before the pur­chase by TIFA. The goal of both the original owner and TIFA was always to restore the Keefer back into a lux­u­rious hotel.

“The original owners, had a vision, and his vision was always to make it a bou­tique hotel and a tourists’ attraction and turn Hillsdale more into a pos­itive tourists’ attraction kind of place,” Wolfram said.

In addition to this vision, Wolfram said there is a great need for an upscale hotel due to the many events hosted by Hillsdale College, such as CCAs.

“We know there’s a ready-market for hotel rooms, there’s a demand,” Wolfram said.

Brant Cohen ‘18 is an asso­ciate for C.L. Real Estate. He will be man­aging the project and is the face of C.L. Real Estate, as this is their first expansion into Michigan. Cohen said that when he was a student at Hillsdale College he remem­bered walking by the building and hoping that one day it would be ren­o­vated and reopened.

“All of the members of Hillsdale’s com­munity have hopes and dreams to see the Keefer open again. Many of them remember working there, many of them remember vis­iting there, eating at the restaurant, and it’s been closed for so long,” Cohen said. “It was built at the peak of Hillsdale’s growth, around the 1890s, and it sym­bolizes a really active time in the com­munity, and to see it empty, just sitting empty in the com­munity is kind of sad.”

Nathan Watson, the general manager of real estate devel­opment for C.L Real Estate said they will begin con­struction in the mid-portion of 2019. While the overall layout of the building is still in its pre­lim­inary stages, he plans on having 34 total rooms. The rooms will consist of 6 suites, 2 extended stay units, and the remaining rooms will be a com­bi­nation of double and queen beds.

The bou­tique hotel will also contain a full-service restaurant open to both the public and hotel guests.

“We haven’t deter­mined the process for the restaurant, we’re hoping for it to be very upscale, but we can’t guar­antee that,” Watson said.

In addition to the restaurant, Watson said that the Keefer House LLC will lease store­fronts to local busi­nesses who offer very inter­esting and high-quality products. Cohen is respon­sible for finding tenants.  

“I’m looking for liable tenants who will provide a quality business that will both address the upscale style of the bou­tique hotel expe­rience, while pro­viding kind of a unique expe­rience for the shoppers here within in the city,” Cohen said. “We want to increase vis­itors, to entice them to come to Hillsdale, not only to shop in our stores, but to walk around town.”

Looking ahead, Cohen hopes that this ren­o­vation will send a pos­itive message throughout the com­munity that Hillsdale is on it’s upturn.

“For me, getting that building open is bringing a lot of hap­piness to a lot of people, filling a market need, and also doing some­thing won­derful,” Cohen said. “I’m excited to see all of that impact on the com­munity and hope that it leads to further growth for Hillsdale down the road. I’m hoping for more vis­itors, more oppor­tu­nities for all of the busi­nesses in town to con­tinue to grow by keeping the guests here, and pro­viding a quality expe­rience to everyone within the city.”

Just down the street from the Keefer House, TIFA will also be ren­o­vating the Dawn Theatre so long as they receive a grant from the Michigan Eco­nomic Devel­opment Cor­po­ration. TIFA will con­tinue to own the Dawn and Keefer House LLC will be respon­sible for man­aging the theatre and is hoping to attract hotel guests by hosting events in the theatre.

“The Dawn Theatre will be what we call a multi-use facility. It will mostly be hosting events like wedding recep­tions, ban­quets, business con­fer­ences, the typical thing you would find in any rental or banquet hall,” Wolfram said.

TIFA is also writing into the man­agement agreement the requirement that the Dawn is available for com­munity events on a weekly basis. Com­munity events could include classic film showings, small theatre shows, and small theatre events.

Edi­tor’s Note: A cor­rection was made in the third graf to clarify that a pur­chase agreement was made in May.