A hotel reborn

With $3 million in renovations nearly finished, longtime downtown Port Holiday Inn will soon become the independently owned, boutique Harborview

THE OWNER OF the Harborview in downtown Port Washington, Eric Lund, stood in the bright, newly refurbished lobby Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Holiday Inn Harborview — a stalwart of tourism and business in downtown Port Washington — will cease to exist at 2 p.m. Friday when it will be replaced by the Harborview, a renovated boutique hotel that’s been attracting plenty of attention as work has gone on this year.

And the more than $3 million in renovations, along with the change from a franchise hotel to an independent one, are likely to reap benefits not just for the business but the community as well, Port Washington Tourism Executive Director Kathy Tank said.

The hotel, she said, is vital to the city’s tourism industry.

“So many people, when they call us, ask first, ‘Do you have something on the lake?’” she said, noting that for decades the hotel was one of the few lodging places right on Lake Michigan between Racine and Two Rivers

“The thing that differentiates us from other cute, historic towns is Lake Michigan. Now the hotel is truly taking advantage of that,” Tank said.

That isn’t lost on hotel owner Eric Lund, who said he’s been contemplating the changes for some time.

“I always knew this property, with its location on Lake Michigan, the size of the hotel, near Rotary Park and being a cornerstone of downtown, wanted to be an independent hotel,” Lund said. “Now we’re fulfilling this dream.”

While it may have made sense in the past to be part of a chain of hotels, Lund said that social media and the internet have made it possible to survive as an independent hotel. 

Lund should know. He and a dozen partners bought the hotel, then a Best Western, in 1998. In 2004, the hotel became a Holiday Inn. Through the years, Lund bought out his partners and today he owns the hotel with his family — wife Yael and sons David and Stephen.

Although crews are still working to complete the renovations, the changes to the hotel are remarkable. The former drive-through entrance and exit has been walled off and is now home to a restaurant and bar, the Beacon, that are tentatively slated to open with a limited menu late this week. Within a week or two, it should be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Lund said.

The bar will feature a number of craft beers from throughout southeastern Wisconsin, while the menu will have steak and seafood at dinner, soups and sandwiches at lunch and traditional breakfast foods, he said.

Outside, a deck overlooking the west slip has plenty of seating and two gas fire pits.

Meats from Bernie’s Fine Meats and chocolates from the Chocolate Chisel will be featured, Lund said.

“Our guests love that, and it’s nice to support the community,” he said. 

Marking the entrance to the bar and restaurant is the “bubble wall,” a glassed in wall with water constantly bubbling through it, lit by changing colored lights.

“I’ve always envisioned having something like that,” Lund said. “At night, it glows. And the white noise it provides is really soothing.”

The entrance to the hotel is now off Grand Avenue, where guests enter a lobby that features welcoming views of the harbor and west slip.

The lower level of the hotel, which had been dark and dreary, is now flooded with light. The conference room, which previously was toward the center of the hotel’s lower level and had no natural light, has been moved to the south side, with large windows and doors that open to the patio.

The pool room has been updated, as has the exercise room.

The work on the lower level was prompted by more than just a desire to update the facility, Lund acknowledged. On Aug. 27, when Port was pounded by nine inches of rain in a couple hours, much of downtown — including the Harborview’s lower level — flooded.

The hotel renovations also included a significant amount of work to the mechanical systems.  Water heaters, dehumidifiers, boilers, the kitchen and a wide variety of equipment has been replaced.

In the 93 guest rooms, the flooring has been replaced, linens and towels changed and bathroom amenities upgraded.

The facade has changed as well. New windows, a blue band across the front of the hotel and a painted archway with the logo fronts Franklin Street. Lighting was still being installed this week.

The decor, as befits a city on the lake, is contemporary nautical, with shades of blue and white throughout accented by wood tones.

North Central Construction of Fond du Lac was the general contractor, and Lund credited them with getting the work done quickly.
Lund said that the response from the hotel’s guests and the community has been heartening.

Residents have been stopping by to watch the changes as they happen, he said, and guests, particularly those who are making return visits, have been enthusiastic.

“The people we’ve had through have been blown away,” Lund said. “The excitement’s been overwhelming.”

And the hotel hasn’t missed a beat as construction’s gone on. It’s been open every day, with crews generally working from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., when people were awake.

Some guests who stopped at the hotel checked out when they saw the construction, but returned later, saying that even though the work was ongoing they wanted to be there, he said.

And social media postings have received more notice than before, Lund said. Before the construction, they would get 200 to 400 looks but recently they’ve been viewed by more than 5,000.

“It’s like a whole new hotel,” Lund said. “This has been transformational. The hotel is coming to life. Now the next chapter is being written.” 

Lund said the hotel will host a grand reopening in fall, offering tours to local residents who might otherwise not get the chance to see the renovations.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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