A Star in The Stella Hotel
While walking the streets of downtown Kenosha, residents stop and stare with surprise at one of the city’s oldest buildings. After years of on and off vacancy, continual assault by the elements, and even once being engulfed in flames, the building breathes with fresh new life. For as long as people can remember, the Heritage House Inn, as it was formerly called, was a conversation piece due to its deep history. Now known as The Stella Hotel & Ballroom, the façade of the building reminds residents of the past, but new management has them looking toward the future.
In June 1917, the building’s story began when the first cornerstone was laid by the Elks Club of Kenosha. The state-of-the-art building towered four stories and underwent several renovations and expansions over decades of prosperity. When financial disaster struck the Elks Club in the 1990s, the building had no choice but to hand over ownership. After transitioning to a restaurant, then banquet hall, and even a conference space, the owners neglected upkeep, and the building was forced to close “for good” in the mid-2000s. When a fire broke out in 2011, a raze order was filed against the Heritage House Inn, though its motion was never carried into action.
For years, the building sat as an eyesore amongst other vacant lots in Kenosha. In hopes of restoring what was lost, WHEDA stepped in with an allocation of $12.5 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) in April 2018. The tax credits provide equity investment to developments in dilapidated parts of a community. A mere one year later, in April 2019, the multi-million-dollar project reached its completion. With a completely new look, the 80-room boutique hotel includes Café at The Stella, a restaurant and bar called The 1844, and a rooftop bar and entertainment space known as The Crow's Nest.
WHEDA NMTCs helped maintain the historic elements of the development while improving the economic vitality of the City of Kenosha. The Stella Hotel & Ballroom, which has been called a catalyst for growth in downtown Kenosha, serves as a guiding star by which future restoration developments may follow.