Not only will the new Westin hotel in Milwaukee overlook the natural beauty of Lake Michigan, it will also offer views of roads that were recently rebuilt as part of an attempt to better connect the city’s downtown and lakefront.
Westin officials marked the beginning of the project’s final stages of construction with a topping-off ceremony on Wednesday morning. The event came a day after Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials working on the Lakefront Gateway project announced that an intersection just east of the hotel site — where Lincoln Memorial Drive meets East Clybourn Street — had reopened following an extensive reconstruction.
Work on the Westin is expected to finish by May, allowing the hotel to open in June. The 10-story building will have 220 rooms, including seven suites, an Italian steakhouse and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom.
The hotel will also be attached to the U.S. Bank Center’s Galleria level by a skywalk over East Michigan Street. J.H. Findorff & Son, of Madison, is overseeing the project.
The Westin plans come amid the city and state’s work on the Lakefront Gateway. That project, estimated to cost $34 million, is generally meant to better connect Milwaukee’s lakefront, downtown and Third Ward neighborhood.
For its part of the work, WisDOT is having Clybourn Street widened, Lincoln Memorial Drive extended south and exit and entrance ramps for a section of Interstate 794 near the city’s lakefront moved farther south.
Most of that part of the project is expected to wrap up by Thanksgiving. The remaining work, primarily landscaping, will be left until the spring.
Milwaukee’s part of the Lakefront Gateway, meanwhile, is expected to continue for a few years. It will largely entail making changes to various downtown streets and extending Clybourn Street east to Art Museum Drive.
Jeff Hess, general manager of the Westin Milwaukee, said the hotel is being built at a time when Milwaukee is benefiting from a redevelopment boom.
“Milwaukee will continue to evolve, and we’re happy to be a part of that evolution,” he said just minutes before the hotel saw its final concrete pour.
The Westin is hardly the only hotel being built in the area. There, for instance, is The Kimpton hotel nearby in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. Work wrapped up on that project in the summer.
“This is unprecedented in the history of city of Milwaukee,” said Rocky Marcoux, commissioner of Milwaukee’s Department of City Development. “There has never been a real-estate boom like we are seeing right now.”
Marcoux cited the Lakefront Gateway project, the Westin and the other nearby developments as evidence that a general revitalization is taking place in the city.
“We have the finest lakefront on the Great Lakes, bar none,” he said. “Why? Because we preserve for our public that incredible space that Lake Michigan is. And the buildings that have been built, that are both public buildings and then great structures like this, add to the ambiance.”
That’s not to say that working in Milwaukee’s crowded downtown is easy. Arranging for the delivery of construction materials can be particularly difficult.
Dave Beck-Engel, Findorff president, said the Westin project team works hard to ensure building materials are reaching the project site exactly when they are needed. Deliveries, he said, are usually timed to avoid heavy traffic, especially the kind seen around morning and evening rush hours.
“Not before they need it, and definitely not after they need it,” he said.