More than meets the eye
Bay View’s new Kinn ‘micro hotel’ transforms historic building

By DAVE FIDLIN - Special to the Post

June 13, 2017

The Kinn features a community gathering space for guests of the eight-room micro-hotel.
Submitted photo

MILWAUKEE — Before arriving in the Milwaukee area three years ago, Charles and Connie Bailey called Chicago home.

Earlier this year, they brought a cosmopolitan sensibility reminiscent of the Windy City to one of the many historic buildings dotting Kinnickinnic Avenue.

The end result, after a year of extensive renovations, is the Kinn, an 11,500-square-foot, eight-room boutique hotel at 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The Down and Over Pub previously occupied the building, which has roots going back decades.

“We love old, unique buildings, and that’s what this is,” Connie said. “We’re on the highest point in this neighborhood.”

While much of the historic building’s exterior remains intact, a complete overhaul of the interior has taken place. The goal, Connie said, is to intermingle the deep history of the surrounding area and give it a modern touch.

“This is an area that has a very nice neighborhood feel,” Connie said. “It’s an area going through a gentrification process. It’s going through a lot of changes.”

Charles and Connie Bailey,
owners of the Kinn.
Submitted photo

Each of the Kinn’s rooms has a different look, and that was a maneuver the Baileys chose deliberately. When they began the heavy lifting of transforming the building’s interior, the couple enlisted the services of Peabody Interiors to give each room distinctive characteristics.

Significant thought and attention went into each of the guest rooms, Connie said, and the overarching goal is to give each one a touch of Milwaukee. Artwork from local artists, for example, is featured in each room.

A view inside on of the Kinn's rooms. Elements of the  historic building have remained intact.
Submitted photo

From an early age, Charles said he aspired to have a hands-on role in the hospitality industry. It runs in his family’s veins. He has family members who have operated Drake Hotels in downtown Chicago and in suburban Oak Brook.

“This is something that I’ve always had in the back of my mind,” he said.

Charles said he shies away from pigeonholing the Kinn into a category. From a branding perspective, he said he chose not to use the term “boutique hotel” in marketing because “it feels a little overused.”

He said he coined the phrase, “micro-hotel” to give the property a little extra flair and differentiate it from other categories, such as a bed-and-breakfast, which he adamantly said is not part of the hotel’s business plan.

Speaking to his self-affixed term, Charles said, “I think it made a little more sense. It’s a little more descriptive.”

A doormat at the Kinn micro-hotel.
Submitted photo

When it came to visioning the transformation, Connie said she wanted the establishment to feel like “a great big, welcoming house.” Her philosophy is, perhaps, best demonstrated with a communal kitchen and lounge area that could resemble a scaled down living room.

A separately operated restaurant, the Kindred, is also housed within the building and is open to the general public.

Work on the interior renovations took more than a year, and encountered a few hiccups along the way, due in part to permitting and other related logistical issues.

The Kinn had a soft launch early this year. With summer here, and a busy festival season on the horizon, the Baileys plan to go full steam ahead with operations.

The couple is quick to recognize they have not done much to market the site. The guest rooms have been occupied primarily through word of mouth. Reservations have been handled through online portals, including Airbnb.

During the first few months of the soft launch, the Baileys said they have been pleased with the response.

“It’s been great,” Charles said. “We’ve actually been thrilled with the reception and the comments we’ve received.”

Connie said she is excited to showcase the Kinn to travelers visiting Milwaukee for Summerfest and other lakefront festivals.

As the Kinn goes full steam ahead, one city leader is jubilantly excited to see the development gain momentum.

“This is a very positive development for this community,” said Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski, whose district includes Bay View. “(The Kinn) adds to the synergy of the growth we’re looking for along KK.”

Zielinski said he was especially pleased the Baileys strived to restore the historic flavor of the building.

“I was very happy to work with them,” Zielinski said. “This is a much better fit for the site, and I’m glad everything has worked out well.”