Plans to construct a hotel on Spring Street in Delaware are very much alive following Wednesday’s meeting of the Delaware Historic Preservation Commission. A Certificate of Appropriateness (COA), which was applied for by Indus Hotels, was approved unanimously by the commission.
Indus Hotels previously received a COA in September 2018 for the demolition of two structures — a former auto shop and current NAPA auto parts store — located a 7 and 27 Spring Street. At that time, renderings for a proposed six-story, 118-room hotel were approved.
The hotel was discussed as potentially being a Hampton Inn, although that had yet to be determined. Renderings now show the hotel to be a Tru by Hilton brand hotel. During Wednesday’s meeting, Indus Vice President David Kozar said Tru by Hilton is “definitely the hotel that Hilton would like us to brand here.”
“It’s a newer brand, a three-year-old brand that is up to about 150 hotels in those three years,” Kozar said. “So, it’s growing tremendously.
“They are not traditionally dealing with a lot of architecturally transitional or historic areas,” Kozar added. “I think we’ve come up with a good design.”
While the Indus group had already gained previous approval of the exterior concept, architect Brian McNally said the change of the brand forced some changes to the design of the building as well due to each brand having its own signature elements and guidelines. However, the materials proposed with the Tru hotel have remained the same as what HPC previously approved with the first COA.
Among the changes to the design of the new building was the pulling of the porte cochere from the middle of the building, as it was previously drawn, further toward the eastern edge of the building. McNally said the porte cochere being in the middle of the building “kind of bisected the site in a way that made both sides look semi-unusable.”
He added that by pulling the porte cochere further to one side, it would open up the remaining space in front of the hotel for landscaping or hardscaping.
McNally said they have been in talks with Ohio Wesleyan University about the parking lot of the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, which would sit directly west of the proposed hotel and could provide additional parking. Renderings of the hotel show a covered pedestrian bridge that would connect the parking lot to the third floor of the hotel should they be able to secure a deal.
The nature of the Tru sign, which is shown in the renderings to exist on the sixth floor of the eastern elevation and would face Sandusky Street, was also discussed. The renderings show the Tru sign to be blue, which members of HPC agreed would be too bright and demanding. Commissioner Stephanie VanGundy proposed perhaps changing the sign to a white or black base and possibly have the Tru name in blue to make it “less obvious.”
“I think it would work in a more modern area, a more hip area,” VanGundy said of the blue sign. “But for the building itself, I don’t think (the sign) does it justice.”
Chairman Mark Hatten pointed out that, with the possible exception of the courthouse, the hotel will be the tallest and most imposing building in the downtown district.
McNally said the hotel has its standards and while he can see if they might have different options for the sign, “it might be a hard ask with the brand to get them to change their logo.”
Much of the discussion on the night centered around the possibility of a mural existing on the eastern elevation. McNally said that the corner of the building serves as the stairwell internally, which limits the design possibilities. In the renderings, a mural is shown that was taken from an old Delaware postcard and depicts various buildings in the community. McNally said the mural wouldn’t have to be that specific design but just wanted to show the possibility of the eastern exterior serving as a canvas for art.
However, any type of mural would need a variance from the commission according to Hatten. Citing the national HPC standards, Hatten said murals can be permitted on brick that has already been painted but not for unpainted brick, which the hotel would feature.
Hatten mentioned there could be some “wiggle room” in the standards for other “temporary” mural options, such as murals that are adhesive and would stick to wall exteriors.
Thoughts on a hand-painted mural continued to be mixed despite the existing standards. VanGundy said she would be in support of a hand-painted mural, and Commissioner Lisa Keller seconded VanGundy’s interest.
While Commissioner Joe Coleman was not present at the meeting, he submitted his thoughts and concerns on the proposal, which were read during the discussion. Coleman wrote of the mural, “To begin with, the (HPC) standards do not permit this type of installation. If HPC allows a mural for this project, then we will have effectively opened the door for similar requests on future applications.”
If the development team were to want to pursue the temporary mural, approval of the request would be given or denied by city staff. Should they choose to push for a variance that would allow for a hand-painted mural, they would have to come before HPC with that request.
The next step for the development team will be to go before the Delaware Planning Commission for either a conceptual review or a Preliminary Development Plan.