BEST ARCHITECTURAL RENOVATION OF AN OLD BUILDING - 2007
The Chambers Hotel
A generation ago, the stretch of Hennepin Avenue through downtown Minneapolis was notorious. Seedy bars and adult businesses drew a regular stream of hustlers, drunks, and thieves. One particular harrowing night at a cafe in the area prompted Tom Waits to write a song, "9th and Hennepin," where "all the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes." In concert years later, Waits still remembered the intersection as "a scary corner." One of the largest contributors to the feeling, no doubt, was the old flophouse on the southwest corner of the intersection, an infamous hotel where rooms went by the hour, then went vacant altogether. Luckily, 2006 saw the renovation of what was once a truly beautiful landmark, which harkened back to the glory days of Hennepin Avenue in the 1920s, reconfigured as the high-end Chambers Hotel. The Chambers, affiliated with a New York joint of the same name, features an "ice bar," a kitchen by internationally renowned culinary powerhouse Jean-Georges, and fine art befitting its neighbor across Loring Park, Walker Art Center. And the 60 guest rooms? The "luxury art hotel" features 1,000-square-foot suites with 580 square feet of balcony space, heated floors, LCD TVs, and something called "rain sky" showers. Don't ask us. But USA Today declared it the "hippest hotel in Minneapolis." While the Chambers may have put us on the international map, what's more important is that it restored what historically might be the city's most important corner. No less an authority than decades-long Strib columnist Barbara Flanagan declared the theater section of Hennepin Avenue, now with the Chambers, in better shape than when the area "soared" in its glory days.