The Chi Hotel Group, one of the entrepreneurial Chi family’s enterprises, announced this morning its $18 million plan to turn the historic Boyle Building at Capitol and Main into a 12-story Aloft Hotel, with a scheduled opening in the first quarter of 2016. Downtown Partnership Director Sharon Priest said the Chis were bringing their business acumen to “the most important corners in the state.”
Jacob Chi, a principal in the group, said the group “vetted” 16 to 18 hotels before deciding on Aloft, which will bring a modern interior — a chic, mid-century style — to the 105-year-old building and fit in with Main Street’s redevelopment as a creative/technology corridor (one attractive to young people). It will have a 3,500-square-foot restaurant and coffee shop on the ground floor, with a Main Street entrance, and the hotel entrance will be from Capitol.
Both Jacob Chi and his brother, Dr. Jason Chi, spoke fervently about their decision to take on the project, which will add the Chi family name to Main Street’s history, a 21st century twist on the street where Little Rock’s most prominent Jewish merchant families once held reign. The Chis will take advantage of historic building tax credits.
Jacob Chi said the city had dragged its feet on bringing Main Street back to life, and said he believes the Aloft Hotel will be the “switch” that accelerates more development.
The hotel will include 4,000 square feet of meeting space, 140 guest rooms and a rooftop pool. “It will be a fantastic place to get married,” Jacob Chi said. One Group Design LP in Dallas will be the lead architect with Tommy Jamison the Little Rock affiliate, and East Harding Construction is contractor. Jacob Chi said he believed it would be the first hotel built on Main in 80 years.
The Chis bought the hotel from Main Street Lofts LLC, realtor Scott Reed’s company that is refurbishing all the buildings on the west side of the 500 block of Main. They are also are partners with Reed’s Capitol Lofts LLC in developing the Hall Davidson building at 205 Capitol Ave. for loft apartments. The Chi Hotel Group’s contract with Starwood is for 20 years. Groundbreaking is expected in five months, Jacob Chi said.
The Chis lived in Taiwan and Guam before moving to Little Rock in 1984. Jason Chi said his parents, Bill and Lulu Chi, who founded Chi’s Chinese Cuisine, were the reason for the family’s success. They asked him, would you be willing to give up your practice to make the hotel work? He thought, yes, if he needed to, and the rest is history. (He is not giving up his practice).