The historic Lunken Airport terminal in Cincinnati could be transformed into an upscale hotel and restaurant, according to plans obtained by The Enquirer through a public registration request.
The developers of the Covington Hotel and its Coppin’s restaurant hope to expand to the Ohio side with a new hotel and restaurant in the Cincinnati Municipal Airport building, the site of the former Sky Galley restaurant, a proposal submitted to city shows.
The idea is to restore the building to its historic art deco glory, while maintaining airport operations, said Guy van Rooyen, whose company van Rooyen Group LLC, submitted the proposal.
Covington Corner Project: Hotel, bourbon experience
“We don’t see it just as a building,” van Rooyen said. “We want to bring it back to be a destination.”
Van Rooyen has said he wants to revive the airport terminal even before the Sky Galley closed last year.
The City of Cincinnati looked for ideas on what to put in the old restaurant space and got an idea. This is a nearly $ 20 million privately funded project and van Rooyen hopes the city of Cincinnati will not only own it, but help with tax incentives.
These discussions have not yet started. Currently, the development company is working with federal agencies on issues related to floodplains and aviation.
Rooftop bar and take out window
This is exactly the kind of plan that city officials were hoping for. It would feature a proven developer who once created a popular restaurant and hotel.
Plans call for a 50-room “first-class hotel” and a 100-seat restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor dining, as well as a separate event space with a capacity of 50 people. The restaurant would be similar to Coppin’s restaurant, with what van Rooyen described as “excellent food, but not overwhelming”. Additionally, there would be a walk-in window for cyclists looking to picnic.
The project comes as Great Parks of Hamilton County is working to extend the Little Miami Scenic Trail, connecting it to the Lunken Airport Trail and the Ohio River Trail to downtown Cincinnati.
According to the plan, the terminal would have landscaped grounds and present a rooftop bar.
The city of Cincinnati owns the building and is expected to approve the idea. The plan will also be reviewed by the Lunken Airport Oversight & Advisory Board, which is made up of representatives from neighboring neighborhoods, airport users and airport companies. The board is advisory only and does not have the power to make final decisions on airport operations or trade agreements.
The hotel and restaurant could open as early as 2022. The airport itself operates the building, as does the small Flamingo Air charter service and a car rental company. These last two should move to make room for the project. It is not known if airport operations would move.
Goodbye to heaven’s kitchen
Over the past year, the Sky Galley, popular with airport visitors, people living nearby, and those seeking the sight of planes taking off and landing, faced a host of issues, including failure of restaurant inspections.
There had been a plan to renovate the restaurant and bring it into line, with help from the city, but the pandemic was too much to overcome. It closed on September 20. The owner at the time, Kirby Brakvill, wrote on Facebook: âAfter sincere consideration and weighing many factors, I realized that the continued operation of Sky Galley was no longer viable in this negative business environment. Since I cannot control the uncertainty of the future, we are simply unable to wait for the storm to end. “
Legions of people spent hours in the restaurant watching small planes, and business jets coming in and out were devastated by the news.
Cincinnati Municipal Airport was built in 1925 and was Cincinnati’s primary airport until 1947. The airport was named after industrialist Edmund H. Lunken, who ran the Lunkenheimer Valve Company.
The Sky Galley opened in the early 1940s, and Brakvill took over in 1999.
The VR group
is best known for its Hotel Covington property, which opened in 2016. It was also a refurbishment project, located in a converted department store built in 1910.
“Bring him back to his former glory”
The Lunken project, the group said in the proposal, would fully restore the Lunken airfield terminal “with benevolent care and a thorough understanding of the National Park Service guidelines for historic preservation.”
The site is not designated historic, but the VR group would request this designation.
The proposal is part of the research carried out by the VR group. For example, the original control tower was covered with a roof, which would be removed to uncover the old airport glass, which is described as an “awe-inspiring glass gem” that the group would “restore to its former glory”.
The new construction would be carried out in keeping with the style of the original building. A non-historic addition at the south end of the building would be replaced with a structure that will house a modest number of hotel rooms.
“These newly constructed, carefully crafted features will help encourage the general public to experience the airport as it did during the property’s most famous years,” the proposal states.
The VR Group is in the middle of a new Covington project, a redevelopment of the Covington YMCA into a hotel, event space and distillery.