What a Difference a Year Can Make

One year ago, I struggled with the words for this column. COVID-19 had gripped our country and the world, and most of us were experiencing some form of lockdown. Today, I’m happy to report that I and several members of the retrofit team have received our COVID vaccinations and are ready to greet the reopening world. What a relief!

To say I’m ready to get back out again, traveling personally and professionally, is an understatement. Not only did I miss meeting with you, our readers and advertisers, at industry events, but I missed out on important family travel in 2020, including a five-year anniversary trip to Hawaii with my husband, during which we were going to spoil ourselves at a resort and visit Pearl Harbor.

Obviously, the travel and hospitality and entertainment industries were hit hard during the pandemic. Last year, while putting together this, the hospitality and entertainment issue, I felt so much sadness knowing I wouldn’t get to visit any of the venues we showcased for the foreseeable future. Maybe the not-knowing was the most difficult part. This year, I’m downright giddy to get to every single one of the hotels, restaurants and event venues we featured in this issue’s pages—and I’m not kidding!

First stop: the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel, which is located a hop, skip and jump from me in Omaha, Neb. The 1916 hotel welcomed Hollywood elite, as well as launched Richard Nixon’s presidential candidacy in 1967. It was shuttered in 1976 and retrofitted into office space in 1984. An interior designer with DLR Group, Staci Patton writes in “Transformation” how the design team essentially stripped the interior spaces down to the bones, peeling away remnants of the office center, and referred to historic imagery and files to meticulously rebuild historic features. The article about and photos of the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel certainly appeal to my wanderlust!

Second stop: a movie in the historic Capitol II Theater inside Hotel Maytag in Newton, Iowa. Built in 1926 by Frederick Louis Maytag, owner of Maytag Corp., the mixed-use building provided housing and entertainment for this community of less than 15,000 people. Difficult economic conditions, including the closure of the last Maytag factory, a major employer in Newton, ultimately caused the building’s decline. Today, the venue again is an economic asset for Newtonites, offering housing, entertainment and retail spaces. Read this inspiring story by Matt Coen, AIA, senior partner and architect at RDG Planning & Design, in “Mixed Use”.

Third stop: the former Cook County Hospital, which is just outside Chicago’s famous Loop. I lived in Chicago for 14 years and before I moved away in 2014 there were rumblings about saving the defunct hospital building. Walsh Construction is overseeing the multi-phase development, which began with the retrofit of the former hospital into a dual-branded Hyatt House and Hyatt Place, Dr. Murphy’s Food Hall and a daycare center, all venues that had been sorely lacking in this part of the city. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Johnston, senior project manager with Walsh Construction, and Rachel Will, an associate principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., specifically about the $25 million façade restoration of Cook County Hospital, which is our “Cover Story”. After reading the story, I encourage you to watch the embedded video about the project in our digital edition, page 29. The video is so well done, underscoring what a staple Cook County Hospital has been in Chicago and the monumental challenges tackled by the large, diverse team who saved it. The video gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. Stories like the ones in this issue are what make editing retrofit such an honor.

I’ve run out of room to discuss all the gorgeous buildings I plan to visit from this issue but I should mention we added extra pages to accommodate as many outstanding hospitality and entertainment retrofit projects as we could. I have a feeling I’m not the only one itching to get out into the world, and it won’t be long before Americans are traveling and patronizing these and other wonderful venues, defining what will be our century’s Roaring ’20s.


Like millions of Americans stuck at home during COVID-19, Editorial Director Christina Koch and her husband were motivated to improve their home. Read about their kitchen remodel, which began in November 2020 and hopefully— by the time this issue reaches you—is complete. Read the blog series now.

About the Author

Christina A. Koch
Christina A. Koch is editorial director and associate publisher of retrofit.

Be the first to comment on "What a Difference a Year Can Make"

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: