Downtown Hilton glitters with all things Cleveland

Last Friday, a group of visitors gathered in the lobby of the new Hilton Cleveland Downtown as they readied for the 2016 Transplant Games of America at the adjacent Convention Center. They blilnked in awe at the beauty of the 32-story hotel and also marveled over the professionalism of the staff of 350.

The positive reaction is exactly what the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials aimed to achieve when construction on the nearly 614,000-square-foot hotel, operated by Hilton Worldwide, began in 2014.
The 600-room Hilton was designed by the Atlanta architecture firm Cooper Carry to show off all of Cleveland’s assets while providing a world-class stay, says Carolyn Deming, director of public relations for the hotel.
“Nearly 500,000 visitors who have never been to Cleveland are expected in the first year,” she says. “We already have business groups on the books through 2020. There are really exciting things happening here and this is a chance to see what Cleveland has to offer.”
A mural composed of 2,800 selfies embodies that assertion. Located at the bottom of the escalators to the connecting Convention Center, the photos were submitted in the #MyClePhoto contest last year and were collected and assembled into a Cleveland skyline mural by North Carolina-based hospitality art curator Kalisher.

Mural of tthe Cleveland skyline comprised of 2,800 selfies submitted in the #MyClePhoto contest
The winner of the contest, a man and his wife on their wedding day in front of the Playhouse Square sign, received a weekend stay at the hotel.
The art throughout the hotel is primarily by local artists. Of the 194 original works of art by 54 artists, 46 artists are from Cuyahoga County, including a free-standing powder coated steel wall by public artist Steve Manka; photographic prints by Paul Duda; and a metal sculpture by Jerry Schmidt.
Twelve murals are repeated in each of the rooms, many of the designs done by local artists Duda, Stuart Pearl, Barbara Merritt, Garrett Weider and Erik Drost.
The 600 rooms, including 37 suites, feature floor-to-ceiling windows with city and lake views. Many of the rooms are ADA accessible. King bed rooms have walk-in showers, while rooms with two queen beds have bathtubs with showers. Two of the suites are themed, with one based on Rock 'n' Roll and the other celebrating graffiti arts.
Interactive digital reader boards in the Hilton public areas rotate through all the artwork in the hotel, giving visitors a quick overview of both Cleveland and the city’s wealth of talented artists. “It’s not just about us,” says Deming, “It’s about telling Cleveland’s story.”  
Four dining options include the Noshery, which offers snacks, coffee and gifts in the 24-hour lobby stop. Eliot’s Bar, named after notorious Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness, offers specialty coffee drinks by day and turns into a cocktail lounge at night on the upper level, which overlooks the lobby.

Eliot’s Bar – named after notorious Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness
Cleveland restauranteur Zack Bruell served as consultant on the dining facilities, including The Burnham restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a Creole fusion flair. “The culinary team traveled to Austin, Charleston, South Carolina and New Orleans to taste and bring back flavor profiles,” explains Deming, adding that the staff makes using locally-sourced food a priority.
Deming says the culinary team is known as the “Young Guns” because the chef de cuisine, pastry chef, banquet chef and executive sous chef are all under the age of 30.
The Burnham has an open kitchen so diners can watch the chefs in action – a Bruell signature – and has open views of the Cleveland Mall and the Public Auditorium from both inside and on a large patio. The restaurant is named after Daniel Burnham, who designed the Group Plan of 1903.
Atop the Hilton sits Bar 32, with sweeping views of Lake Erie and the city from a large open-air terrace. The bar, which is slated to open on July 1, will feature craft cocktails and small plates such as flatbreads, seafood, charcuterie and cheeses. Former general manager of Porco Lounge and Tiki Room Shannon Smith will head up the Bar 32 staff as they make cocktails featuring liquid nitrogen and other unique concoctions.
“Shannon is an extremely experienced cocktailier,” says Deming.
Other features include carpeting depicting maps of downtown Cleveland streets in the elevator lobbies, more than 50,000 square feet dedicated to meeting and event space that can be configured to fit any size event, an indoor pool and four fitness rooms – two focused on cardio exercise and two centered around yoga. The hotel has also earned a silver LEED certification rating for its green building and attention to environmental efficiency.

At its job fair in February, Hilton interviewed 1,300 people and hired 267 on the spot. “More than 200 of them had never worked a day in hospitality,” says Deming, adding that newly-hired Hilton employees went through extensive training. “We hired for attitude, not aptitude. We believe in second chances.” The Hilton continues to hire additional staff. Prospective employees can apply here.
The hotel was built as a joint venture by Turner Construction,  Ozanne Construction and Van Aken Atkins Architects and officially opened June 1. Reservations are available now, and rates start at $149 per night. Not surprisingly, the hotel is completely booked for the Republican National Convention.

Deming heartily encourages Clevelanders to come to the Hilton for a "staycation" and enjoy the amenities the hotel and downtown has to offer.

“This is your hotel,” she says. “Come for your coffee, come for happy hour, come for dinner. This is a new downtown destination.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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