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September 12, 2018

Ikea may turn modernist office building into hotel

Mary O’Leary/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP [enlarge]
Ikea bought Marcel Breuer Tower in New Haven, Conn., and is eyeing a hotel.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A brutalist-style structure that was designed by famed architect Marcel Breuer and has sat vacant along Interstate 95 for over a decade may soon become a hotel.

Swedish home furnishings giant Ikea, which owns the property, is seeking approval from New Haven's City Plan Commission to convert the building into a 165-room hotel.

The concrete structure has two sections, with an office block elevated above the lower floors by massive pillars.

It was built in the late 1960s as the headquarters for Armstrong Rubber Co., which later sold it to Pirelli tire company. After acquiring the property in 2003 Ikea built a store on an adjacent plot, but it has hung a huge banner ad from its roof to advertise chairs or desks sold at the store.

In a letter to the planning commission, Ikea said the expectation is “that the building will become an attractive purchase opportunity as a hotel,” the New Haven Register reported. It said the plan would help meet the city's need for new hotel rooms and rejuvenate an architecturally significant building at a gateway to the city.

The plan documents do not identify a potential hotel operator.

An Ikea spokeswoman said the company has not announced any new plans for the building and did not have any further information to share.

City officials have been discussing different uses for the site with Ikea for several years, said Matthew Nemerson, the city's economic development administrator. For now, he said, Ikea is only talking about parking and zoning changes that might be needed to accommodate a new use for the building.

“While we are excited we don't want to put any pressure on them,” Nemerson said. “We're very happy they are talking to developers.”

Works by Breuer, a Hungarian-born architect, have seen a resurgence of interest and Nemerson said he has heard a range of creative ideas for the New Haven building, including installing glass around the outside of the “missing” third floor to create new space, possibly for a restaurant.

“It's always been a billboard. It could be something creative that captures people's attention,” Nemerson said.

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