Now a Residence Inn, Old Federal Building retains historic touches

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Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013 12:00 am

Guests entering a hotel room at Omaha's new Residence Inn by Marriott will walk down a wide, historic corridor and pull open a stately black door trimmed with brass fixtures.

On the other side, literally the other side of the same door, they'll see the door color has changed to bright white and its hardware to stainless steel. The room itself is a prototype of Marriott's newest suite.

The step through a virtual time zone — from the early 1930s-era hallway into contemporary apartment-like quarters — is a hallmark of the converted Residence Inn set to open at 15th and Dodge Streets within a few weeks. General Manager Kyle Highberg didn't have an exact date.

The 152-room hotel stands out from other Marriotts because modern rooms and amenities were retrofitted to a historic landmark, formerly the Omaha Federal Building. Developers hope the blend of history with modern comforts and conveniences will lure extended-stay customers.

The $23 million transformation that began in spring 2012 brings to life a 12-story former office building that had sat vacant the last few years. Built as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the 120,000-square-foot structure is considered a Stripped Classical architectural style with art deco influences.

Because of its historic status, developers had to preserve its early character and, when possible, original materials.

Hallways retained their wider size. Much of the baseboard is original marble. “Blank” doors dot hallways to retain the feel of old federal offices.

Other features guests won't see at more typical Residence Inns.

>> Three Great Depression-era vault doors — from the former home of federal branches including the Secret Service, Army Corps of Engineers and District Court — are displayed in the main-floor hearth room.

>> A 1934 FBI Most Wanted poster that was uncovered now adorns a wall where guests can eat breakfast.

>> Three upper-level guest rooms have large walkout terraces. When returning inside, the deck-goers will see up close the art deco brick detail on the building's exterior.

“You're not going to get this view in suburbia,” said Katrina Stoffel of Omaha's Alley Poyner Macchietto, project designer.

First Hospitality Group Inc. of Rosemont, Ill., teamed up with Nelson Construction to convert the building.

Guest rooms are equipped with contemporary furnishings, including 42-inch high-definition TVs, work stations, power blinds, fluffy beds framed by oversized metal headboards and full kitchens with stainless steel appliances.

What once was a playground for a child care center is an outdoor patio area and fire pit. Meeting rooms are available.

Without a swimming pool, the hotel offers a free game and video room with a poker table.

Valet parking is available, a change from its final years as an office building, when federal security allowed no cars to linger around the building.

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