Hennepin hotel rehab swallows ProColor, dumps eatery

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September 6, 2004 // UPDATED 4:00 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

The Chambers, an upscale "boutique" hotel proposed for the old Fairmont Hotel at South 9th Street & Hennepin Avenue has doubled in size to 53 rooms under a revised proposal announced Sept. 1.

The luxury hotel will span 85,000 square feet and expand into the ProColor lot at 909 Hennepin Ave. S. The custom photo lab and digital imaging service will move to North Minneapolis by February 2005, said John Gorski, ProColor's president.

Ralph Burnet, the lead investor behind the Chambers, said the expansion was initially planned as a second phase of the development.

"However, as we got further into the planning we realized it would be far less disruptive to guests, and far better financially, to do everything at once," Burnet said in a prepared statement.

The expansion will delay the hotel's opening by year with an anticipated opening in early 2006.

That's a year later than planned, and may have cost the presence of cclaimed Stillwater restaurant La Belle Vie. Restaurateurs Josh Thoma and Tim McKee, owner of the popular tapas restaurant Solera, 900 Hennepin Ave. S., across the street from the Fairmont have pulled out of the project.

"Chambers is going to be a great hotel and we're looking forward to the business it will bring to our end of Hennepin Avenue. However, with the changes and delays it is simply no longer the right fit for La Belle Vie," Thoma said in a prepared statement.

Jacqueline Hanson, a spokeswoman for Burnet, said it's unclear at this point whether a new restaurant is part of the proposal.

The hotel will be designed by Rockwell Group, an internationally renowned architectural firm that designed the Chambers in midtown Manhattan -- a hotel known for its impressive modern art collection.

"Things for this project just keep getting bigger and better," Burnet said. "It's an incredible coup for us to be the first site that the Rockwell Group will design for the Twin Cities."

The Downtown Chambers will also boast a collection of modern artwork. Burnet, chairman of Coldwell Banker Burnet, is a collector of work by Young British Artists, known as YBAs.

A night in the Chambers will range between $200 and $400.