The long saga of the iconic Longaberger Basket Company headquarters building seems to have come to a happy ending.
Located in Newark, OH, the 180,000-square-foot basket was built in 1997 for $32 million by designer NBBJ and Korda Nemeth Engineering. It was designed to resemble the Longaberger company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket” and was dubbed “the world’s largest basket” by RoadsideAmerica.com.
The unique building became vacant in the summer of 2016, when Longaberger moved its headquarters to its manufacturing plant in Frazeyburg, OH. It took three long years to find a buyer for the building, but the facility and 21 acres around it were eventually purchased by developer Coon Restoration & Sealants and partner Bobby George for $1.2 million.
To the relief of Newark residents and lovers of weird architecture everywhere, developer Steve Coon made it clear from the start that he had no plans to “take the handles off” the seven-story building, and he has stayed true to his word: Plans are in the works to convert the seven-story, picnic-basket-shaped building — complete with handles — into a 150-room luxury hotel that will open in 2020.
According to the Newark Advocate, the announcement followed public tours of the building as part of a fundraiser for Heritage Ohio, an organization dedicated to preservation and revitalization.
Working with partners Ceres Enterprises and Sandvick Architects, Coon plans to pursue state historic tax credits, which will be awarded in June, and complete renovation work in about 18 months.
“We looked at everything,” Coon said of possible uses for the building. “But the best value was a hotel.”
Despite its transformation from a corporate headquarters to a luxury hotel, the exterior look of the basket building will not change. A conservancy easement will guarantee the building remains a basket, according to Coon.
“The handles, that’s what makes this building special and unique,” said Coon. “This will stay a basket. It’s going to be a basket forever. It’s got the draw. This is a destination.”
The challenge of turning an historic building into a hotel is usually creating something unique around the rooms, Jonathan Sandvick, president of Sandvick Architects, told the Newark Advocate. That challenge is reversed with the Longaberger building.
“Largely, the public spaces will be kept intact,” said Sandvick. “The bigness actually is what makes it possible to do it. It’s very visible from (Ohio) 16. That’s really an advantage. It is truly a landmark that is one of a kind.”
The use of the building continues the Longaberger legacy, according to Mayor Jeff Hall.
“It’s about a building that deserves the respect,” said Hall. “A hotel is a perfect fit because it’s open to the public. Dave Longaberger would be happy with that. It’s the right people and the right property. These guys are not in the business of losing money.”
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