Construction on the historic Keefer House is now underway to transform the iconic building into a 32-room boutique hotel, featuring three storefronts and a restaurant.
C.L. Real Estate LLC, a building developer based out of Peru, Illinois, purchased the Historic Keefer House from Hillsdale’s Tax Increment Finance Authority Oct. 25.
TIFA Chair Christopher Sumnar said he and many others have been working very hard to prepare for this day.
“We couldn’t be more excited. It really has been a lot of work up to this point. It’s nice to have this day today,” Sumnar said.
Sumnar credited TIFA board members Jeffrey and Marcy Horton, local business owners, city officials, and C.L. Real Estate with helping to prepare for the sale.
Brant Cohen ’18 is an associate for C.L. Real Estate LLC and said he is very grateful for the Hillsdale community.
“It’s the outpouring of community support that I’ve found in Hillsdale to be unbelievable, and that’s what today was,” Cohen said. “These members and these officials have all been in the community for most their lives, or at least have been transplants who have fallen in love with it, and being a student at the college for four years, I have that same kind of passion.”
Peter Limberger, principle owner of C.L. Real Estate LLC, said up until this point, there have been many discussions about the project, but now, he is looking forward to starting the construction process.
“Today is the starting point, now the clock starts to click to get this done within about 1.5 years or so,” Limberger said. “We really want to open in 2020, so today, the clock starts; we have to work, and we are moving.”
Limberger said C.L. Real Estate believes in small Midwest towns and has the goal of focusing on great historical aspects of buildings to make them greater in the future.
“Let’s find the big things in small towns and bring things back in small towns that were fabulous 100 years ago,” Limberger said.
Aaron Holverson, project architect from Gary W. Anderson Architects, said his primary goal will be to maintain the historical aspects of the building but make accommodations to turn the Keefer into a modern hotel.
The main floor will feature a lounge, dining hall, reception area, and an outdoor event space. The second and third floors will each have 16 guest rooms and identical floor plans.
Holverson said the exterior of the building will be preserved, but people can expect to see minimal changes on the main, second and third floors.
“There are elements of the second and third floor that will be maintained, but as it’s arranged now, it’s not arranged or room-sized and laid out to accommodate what people would expect in a modern hotel,” Holverson said, “There will be quite a few changes upstairs to accommodate modern hotel conveniences.”
Matt Robinson, project manager from C.L. Real Estate LLC, echoed Holverson and said he hopes to preserve the historic feel of the building while also transforming the space into a fully functioning hotel.
“The vision in the space is to elevate the space to a contemporary feel but still feel elegant,” Robinson said.
Limberger said he truly wants to make this building a destination site for both the local and regional population to enjoy.
TIFA board member Mike Parney said his mother was a waitress at the Keefer in the 1940s. He said she told him stories about the train porters who carried in passenger luggage and would stop in for a meal. Parney said he is excited to see the Keefer’s doors open again.
“This will be an attraction, some place for people to come for no other reason other than to stay here,” Parney said. “It’s just a good thing for everybody.”
Sumnar said he is excited to see how the Keefer impacts downtown Hillsdale.
“You can talk about this as a catalyst for downtown, and it is, but it’s one that strengthens an already vibrant downtown,” Sumnar said. “I don’t want that to detract from the business owners who have already been committed to really make this an incredible and lively downtown compared to a lot of other communities in our size-range.”
Cohen said he walked by the Keefer when he was a student at Hillsdale College and hoped one day it would be restored. Now, the wait is finally over.
“I’m not the only one excited,” Cohen said. “Having 30 or 40 people here in this lobby was amazing, and to see that, really gets me more excited for what we’re gonna be able to do with in the future, here with the Keefer.”