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Once a Hotel, Always a Hotel...

The Hotel Northland has Green Bay running through its architectural veins.

Walnut Dining Room. Photos courtesy of Octagon Finance.

Hotel Northland returned to downtown Green Bay, WI last February 2019 as a 160-room Marriott Autograph collection. The historic building’s renaissance ends the decade-long effort to rehabilitate the building, spurring an excitement around town reminiscent of its first opening in 1924. As one of our investment partnerships, Rethos funded a state historic tax credit loan to the project, helping to monetize the credit and ensuring the best use of the state’s investment. The Northland was a poster project for the expansion of Wisconsin’s tax credit policy in 2013, and Rethos is proud to have partnered with Octagon Finance in this historically significant rehabilitation.

When it opened in 1924, the Hotel Northland was admired for its size, luxury, and opportunity for downtown Green Bay. The Hotel Wisconsin Realty Co, the state’s premier hotelier at the time, developed the hotel and recruited architect Herbert Tullgren for its design. Built over the course of one year, Green Bay residents watched in awe as the large nine story Tudor-revival building rose above their town. The hotel opened in March 1924 and one local newspaper claimed it was the most modern hotel in Wisconsin, with 260 hotel rooms, 5 miles of pipe, 380 radiators, 45,000 yards of plaster, 4 Bruno Ertz paintings, coach service to the train station, a fleet of taxis, and fireproof construction that launched the tagline “Sleep in Safety!” A train from Milwaukee carrying 100 people arrived the day after opening to continue the celebration with a dinner dance.

Left: Postcard depicting the original Hotel Northland. Right: Hotel Northland post rehabilitation. Photo courtesy of Octagon Finance.

Over the next 55 years, the hotel held numerous banquets, dances, and was visited by fleets of football fans. Intricately tied to the history of the Green Bay Packers football team, the hotel was host to out-of-state teams, was the site of Vince Lombardi’s first speech to the press (in the Crystal Ballroom), and Curly Lambeau once resided on the eighth floor.

In addition to being important to football, the Northland represents the growth Green Bay experienced in the early-to-mid 20th century, an energy that its rehabilitation has tapped into once again. Converted to housing for the elderly and disabled in 1979, the building took a break from being a hotel for 40 years. The all-too-common tale of downtown’s losing residents and falling into disrepair in the latter half of the 20th century unfolded in downtown Green Bay, as projects like the Port Plaza Mall failed to maintain a thriving business district. The city demolished the Port Plaza Mall as a result of a 2010-2011 redevelopment plan that also called for the construction of CityDeck, a new waterfront park around the corner from the Northland, and the expansion of the KI Convention Center. Although numerous issues faced potential developers since this project’s conception in 2010, the Northland’s rehabilitation is an integral part of this plan because of the benefits to surrounding businesses and recent public investments.

Far left: Bar in Walnut Dining Room. Top Left: Crystal Ballroom, site of Vince Lombardi’s first speech to the press. Bottom Left: Hallway leading to Crystal Ballroom. Photos courtesy of Octagon Finance.

The Hotel Northland acted as the poster project for expanding Wisconsin’s historic tax credit in 201. Governor Scott Walker signed into law the expansion of the state credit to 20% of qualified rehabilitation expenses in the lobby. Wisconsin’s state historic tax credit has existed since 1989. It offered a 5% credit for historic building rehabilitations, but the expansion to 20% prompted hundreds of millions of private investment into the state’s historic buildings, with ripple effects in housing creation, businesses, and jobs. Rethos has been involved in Wisconsin tax credit lending since 2015, with 7 projects total. Our involvement has spanned the state geographically and projects range in size and purpose. The Hotel Northland (and our six other projects) in the state have helped build our capacity to expand our education programming to Wisconsin, all while supporting the reimagination of historic buildings with positive community impact.


Explore the entire first issue of 2020. Discover more about our Investment Partnership program.

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