IOWA CITY — Angela Harrington didn’t realize the local connections she had to the new Bohemian Hotel — set to open Friday — when she first started eyeing the Iowa City property to renovate for a second hotel.
She liked how the rooms had large windows and let in a lot of natural light — unusual for an older building.
Turns out, as a child, her husband, Steve Howard, stayed at the same hotel she was considering buying and redesigning — in the 1960s and ’70s, the Clarion Highlander Hotel and Supper Club.
Then she began hearing all sorts of stories — weddings, family reunions, vacations — of big life events residents tied to the old building, at 2525 Highlander Place.
Since closing on the building six months ago, she and Howard led a crew to complete the renovations on the hotel, including an open-air pool and courtyard, to open to guests this weekend as an independently owned hotel.
Harrington admits its an unusual time to be opening a hotel. But without an end to the coronavirus pandemic in sight, she said she didn’t think the $5 million project should stray from its timeline.
“Ready or not, here we come” she said.
Harrington plans to open just half the hotel’s 93 rooms, and delay guest stays in the same room to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Hotel staff are required to wear masks, sanitizer is placed around the hotel and guests are encouraged to use a spray disinfectant.
Exercise equipment will be spaced apart, and she said guests are encouraged to spend time outside in the courtyard.
Harrington also owns Hotel Grinnell in Grinnell. That hotel recently has started to see a trickle of customers coming in on vacations close to home or visiting family members.
She doesn’t expect big crowds of hotel-goers at the Bohemian right away.
“I don’t anticipate a sell-out, but we’re sure hoping for a few guests,” she said.
Harrington’s goal is by 2021, when the public health risk of large crowds should be lowered, the hotel’s 65,00-square-foot spaces can be used for big events such as weddings.
The newly renovated hotel features a courtyard with a grand fire ring, bags games, bocce ball, Ping-Pong, Beersbee, Frisbee golf practice target and croquet.
Garage doors open the indoor-pool to the outside air and on one wall is a mural painted by local artist Thomas Agran.
Throughout its history as a hotel, its hosted famous guests — including baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle and singer-songwriter Joan Baez.
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