Design architect: Deborah Berke Partners, New York City.
Architect of record: Alan Weiskopf, Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel, Pittsburgh.
The 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati is a contemporary art museum, 156-room boutique hotel, restaurant, spa, and rooftop bar in the heart of downtown Cincinnati.
The first full-service hotel to open in downtown Cincinnati in 28 years, 21c restored the historic 11-story Metropole building, preserving its original architectural character and complementing it with contemporary art and design. Within the 150,000-square-foot (14,000 sq m) project, 8,000 square feet (743 sq m) are devoted to the 21c museum, which houses curated exhibitions of 21st-century art, multimedia installations, and cultural programming. The museum is open to the public around the clock, every day.
Born of a desire to integrate contemporary art into everyday life, the 21c Museum Hotel concept debuted in the founders’ hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, in 2006. Developed with like-minded local partners, 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati opened as the brand’s second property in 2012.
Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, the creative forces behind 21c Museum Hotels, conceived 21c, in part, as a community restoration project aimed at revitalizing Louisville’s cultural center. With the goal of engaging the public with art in a new way, they converted vacant buildings into an interactive museum, a boutique hotel, and a restaurant. While the development was not typical of a traditional hotel or museum, the approach was deliberate, and grounded in the belief that art could drive commerce.
The 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati is a key link in the city’s ambitious redevelopment plans. The concept was ideally suited to the Metropole building, located in the heart of the Backstage District, across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts and next to the Zaha Hadid–designed Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Metropole building opened in 1912 as the grand Metropole Hotel, and in 1971 it was converted to federally subsidized apartments. Operating under a consent decree that mandated the presence of an offduty police officer, the property was accessible only to residents and approved visitors. The building became a leading downtown residential address for police calls, recording nearly 200 calls in 2008 as well as 13 on-site arrests. In 2009, a local nonprofit development organization, Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC), acquired the building for the purpose of revitalization, provided counseled relocation services to remaining tenants, and helped facilitate subsequent purchase by 21c.
The $51 million project overcame significant market challenges with use of a public/ private partnership, leveraging $24 million in federal, state, and local incentives, including historic tax credits, new markets tax credits, a city grant, and tax increment financing, as well as traditional debt, and equity invested by the developer. It was seeded in a public/private partnership with 3CDC. In addition, 21c partnered with outreach organizations, including the Urban League, Cincinnati Works, Cincinnati COOKS!, and the YWCA, to host four job fairs to fill many of the 160 new permanent jobs created by the development.