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Central Ohio IFMA Members Experience the LeVeque Tower at its Finest

     When the LeVeque Tower opened in 1927, the 46-story skyscraper was the tallest building in Ohio and the fifth tallest in the world.

     It was iconic.

     Its signature lights have guided Amelia Earhart as she flew her historic journey. Ablaze in red, white, blue and pink, it honors holidays and causes alike.

     Walking through its marbled hallways, one is transported back in time, when movie stars were adored, music and culture were dynamic, and big cities were booming with prosperity.

     Art deco was the trend. The reality of a Great Depression was far from anyone’s thoughts.

     Following a $27 million, five-year restoration project, the building now shines once again, a twinkling star in the Columbus night sky. Its new owners, Bexley attorney and real-estate investor Robert Myers and local developers Casto and Schiff Capital Group, are proud of the results and were more than willing to show it off to a group of Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members Tuesday, Nov. 14.

     Overseeing the project was Columbus-based Schooley Caldwell.

     “Bob’s vision was that of a multi-tenant building,” said Daniel O’Harra, Senior Vice President of Asset Management at Lawyers Development Corporation, one of the lead owners of the building. “But it took a little bit of time to get everything aligned. We wanted this to be unique.”

     Their patience and efforts have paid off. In 2016, Architectural Digest named the LeVeque Tower one of the top seven art deco buildings in the world, and just recently the most beautiful hotel in the state of Ohio.

     With no raised dock and no freight elevator, renovations were a challenging task. An average of 250 trade persons worked in the building every day during renovations, O’Harra told Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members prior to their tour. It made for some busy hallways and full elevators.

     Kaufman Development was responsible for developing both the building’s 69 apartments and eight permanent residences.   Rents range from about $1,400 for a one-bedroom unit to more than $2,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. The condos are priced from the mid-$500,000s to $1.5 million for a large two-level townhouse near the top of the tower. The luxury residences take up floors 34 through 37 and offer sweeping city views to match the uncompromising comforts the new designs have to offer.

     The new 150-room Marriott Autograph Hotel (which occupies floors 5 through 10) features a breath-taking two-story entry and decor, weaving together historic and contemporary designs. The hotel boasts a large variety of unique rooms and suites that mirror the hotel’s celestial theme – Star of the Columbus Skyline. In fact, a custom two-story lighted sculpture inspired by the constellations hangs in the lobby, representing the connection between the LeVeque Tower and the stars above. Stargazing carries over into the 150 guest rooms where a light projects stars on the ceiling during the evening’s turndown service each night, creating a dazzling environment to match the guests’ experience.

     Tucked inside the hotel is the building’s own signature restaurant and bar, The Keep. The Keep is a modern French brasserie and bar concept courtesy of nationally acclaimed Concentrics Restaurants and acclaimed Chef Jonathan Olson. Its low-lit, speak-easy feel invites one to sit and relax at a table, the bar, or one of its comfortable couches or chairs.

     Some 160,000-square feet of world-class office space covers ten floors of the 47-story landmark, anchoring the modern mixed-use development. Pure-white hallways meld with the rest of the building’s décor and are meant to highlight the area’s clean lines and accent local art.   Specifically highlighted is Gordon Keith, a local designer and artist whose highly visible creations ranged from parade floats to museum displays, including the Street of Yesteryear (a re-creation of long-gone Columbus scenes that was an attraction at the original COSI) and the elaborate Nativity scene displayed at Christmastime outside the State Auto headquarters at 518 E. Broad St. Paintings acquired by Myers, one of the artist’s fans, now adorn the hallways in the office area, a collection he bought after Keith died in February of 2015.

     In addition to private funding, the project was supported by state and federal historic preservation tax credits and city incentives.

     Central Ohio IFMA Chapter members were left nearly speechless during the hour and a half-tour, retiring to The Keep to discuss the building’s architecture, design, and of course, its heating a cooling systems.

     Soon the lights above the building’s penthouse will be illuminated red and green for Christmas. Prior to the renovations, workers had to climb outside and tape gels to the lights to change their colors. Today, the new LED lights change automatically with the mere flip of a switch.

     Originally designed by master architect C. Howard Crane, the LeVeque Tower opened in 1927. Headquarters of the American Insurance Union and named The Citadel, this impressive monument was acquired by the LeVeque family in 1945 and sold in 2011 to Myers and his group of investors. At 555 and a half feet tall, six inches taller than the Washington Monument, it was once the fifth tallest building in the world and served as an aerial lighthouse for Amelia Earhart. Its construction occurred along with a massive revitalization of the riverfront area in downtown Columbus after much of the area had severe problems with flooding. In addition to the tower, a new Columbus City Hall (which sits next door), the 14-story Ohio Courts Building, and the widening of the Scioto River were all undertaken during the same period.

     During its original construction, five construction workers lost their lives.

     The LeVeque Tower was added to the National Register on March 21, 1975.