Historic, yet modern: Take a peek inside the Yorktowne Hotel renovation

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
Kimberly Hogeman, York County Economic Alliance strategic development director, talks about progress of the Yorktowne Hotel construction in the lobby area of the historic downtown landmark Tuesday, June 15, 2021. A 1926 triptych mural, background, will be rejoined and retained in the front desk area. Bill Kalina photo

It's been a fixture of York City for almost 100 years, and after closing in 2016 for renovations, the Yorktowne Hotel is on its way to reopening in 2022 under the Hilton brand.

This project has a long, expensive history. Originally set to reopen in fall 2019, the Yorktowne has been delayed several times and has seen its price tag balloon to $54 million, an increase of 170% from its original cost estimate of $20 million.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Yorktowne was tentatively slated to reopen in spring 2021.

During a recent tour of the hotel, York County Economic Alliance director of strategic development Kim Hogeman spoke about the different priorities of the project.

"One of the key things with this project has been historic rehabilitation in the public spaces and adding life safety and ADA accessibility, and then also having Hilton brand standards," Hogeman said Tuesday during a tour of the project. "So those three things don't always line up." 

More:The end is in sight for the Yorktowne Hotel renovation

More:Yorktowne Hotel's latest price tag hits $54 million, opening delayed until 2022

Kinsley Construction's Shawn Goodling, project superintendent, left, and George Winter, building division safety director, stand in the ballroom of the Yorktowne Hotel Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Scaffolding dominates the ballroom as ceiling repairs take place. Bill Kalina photo

For example, hanging over the front desk in the main lobby is a triptych mural painted in 1926 that showcases a hospitality setting. In order to accommodate both the mural and the need for a staircase that services the entire building, the first panel of the mural will now be set at a 90-degree angle.

Also, the Yorktowne will add a fitness center and a lobby breakfast bar to comply with Hilton brand requirements.

Another priority for the YCEA is finding tenants for the Market Street entrance, which is projected to have an independent restaurant and shopping area. 

Katie Mahoney, York County Economic Alliance vice president of marketing & communications, talks about progress of the Yorktowne Hotel construction in the lobby area of the historic downtown landmark Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Terrazzo flooring in the lobby was revealed after carpeting was removed. Bill Kalina photo

"We want something that activates not only the restaurant, but the rest of the downtown," Hogeman said. "So we want something that doesn't just duplicate what we have, but rising tides lift all boats. We are open to suggestions." 

Hogeman said that the search for tenants had been essentially halted by the pandemic, but now that the team is a year out from the opening, they'll be putting the word out again.

Another change from how the hotel had been run will be the use of two kitchens. A kitchen downstairs will service the proposed restaurant, while a kitchen behind the lobby will service the breakfast bar and the ballroom. 

An original section of balustrade and bannister is shown at the Yorktowne Hotel Tuesday, June 15, 2021. Many historical features in the building will be retained, according to officials. Bill Kalina photo

Some of the other priorities for the project include adding an elevator bay that will provide access to all areas of the building, from the Market Street entrance to the roof.

The renovation has come with some benefits that will allow the hotel to retain its historic nature. For example, a stone floor in the lobby has been revealed after being covered up.

"If you see something that's a historic feature, we'll be bringing it back to life," Hogeman said. 

Other parts of the hotel being renovated include the ballroom, mezzanine and the "Mirror Room," which will be renamed the WellSpan Room.

The hotel will also act as a celebration of local artists. Thirteen local artists have been commissioned to create art for the hotel. 

One example of the difficulties of renovating a historic property is the stairways. The project has updated the existing stairways and added a new one to go to all levels and fit modern standards.

"You get into restoring a hotel of this age and you think, 'Oh, you're going to have some hiccups,'" said Katie Mahoney, YCEA's vice president of marketing and communications. "That took forever to figure out a way to keep the historic thing and bring accessibility in. It's countless meetings, Kim (Hogeman) juggling a whole bunch of different opinions, ideas, personalities to come up with a solution that keeps the hotel historic but also modernizes it.

"That's the tale that you could tell about almost every piece of this hotel." 

Even the renovation of the 123 hotel rooms has proven tricky. Thanks to the concrete pillars that provide stability to the building, just about every room must be custom built in some way. 

Kinsley Construction is the general contractor for the project.

Philadelphia-based GF Hotels will operate the Yorktowne when it opens for business.