Story by Mariah Kline
Photos by Kathryn Harrington
As one of the city’s most anticipated events of 2018, the opening of the Omni Hotel has Louisville abuzz with questions about its impact on downtown. Time will tell how the economy and tourism will be affected by the national conglomerate’s arrival, but it is certain that the Omni isn’t leaving locals out of the excitement.
The massive new complex will boast 612 rooms and 70,000 square feet of event space. As a nod to Louisville, the hotel’s pool deck (which will feature a full kitchen and bar) is named The Water Company. The pool deck will be open to guests and clients of Mokara Salon & Spa located on the third floor. Mokara will have reservations available and open to the public, perfect for those of us who work downtown and want to pop in for a quick massage.
At its single location, the Omni will have five dining options, including Falls City Market, that are open to the public. Neighborhood Services will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with dishes crafted by Chef Nick Badovinus. Bob’s Steak & Chop House will offer dinner and drinks in a luxurious atmosphere. Library Bar, open all day from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., will serve coffee and pastries during the day and locally-inspired cocktails in the evening. Pin + Proof, possibly the most exceptional option of them all, is a speakeasy that will feature four bowling lanes and an alluring, Prohibition-era vibe.
Falls City Market is perhaps the most unique component of all. The urban market and food hall will include a Heine Brothers Coffee storefront, a pizza station, flower shop, bookstore and more. Located on the first floor, this massive market will be accessible to the public and provide a much-needed one-stop-shop in downtown.
“There’s really nothing like this in Louisville,” said Carly Mason, the Omni’s marketing manager. “This is more of an urban development and it’s definitely unique to the city.”
The Omni has made engaging the community a priority, and that includes the city’s thriving arts scene. A number of local artists will have their works on display in the hotel’s lobby and beyond.
“From the minute you come in as you’re walking throughout the hotel, you’re going to see art,” said Mason.
Local works will be featured all around the hotel, but several pieces will be found on the first floor leading to the guest elevators, creating a gallery of sorts for the public to view. Each piece will have a short description and an artist bio so admirers can learn more about the works.
In addition to displaying local art, the Omni is also utilizing the skills of local artists. The Voice-Tribune Art Director Britany Baker was recently commissioned to create a mural inside the entrance to Neighborhood Services. The mural itself is a recreation of one that was previously located on this site.
“There was a parking garage here,” Baker explained. “From what I understand, it was in pretty bad shape, but it was beloved and had some interesting murals on it.”
Though it will not be the same as the original, she strived to give the mural an authentic look.
“My goal was to document how it looked when it came down,” she said, “so it will not only be the original sign, but it will have the same weathered look.”
Working on reclaimed brick was a welcome challenge for Baker, who diligently planned and painted while she was surrounded by the continual construction at the hotel. In the days leading up to the project, she tested three different methods of painting on sample bricks. In order to emphasize the weathered vibe, she added in what she calls a “line of distress” that ties the piece together and gives it more of a damaged look.
Baker has been painting since she was old enough to hold a paintbrush and has been doing scenic painting since the 1990s. She has years of experience working on sets and backdrops for theatrical and film productions, which made her an ideal choice for the project. She and the Omni’s staff are delighted with the end result.
“I think it’s a nod to history and I feel honored that they chose me to recreate it,” Baker said.
While reservations for Derby weekend are nearly sold out, the hotel’s staff looks forward to welcoming locals and out-of-towners to fill their guest rooms in the coming months. It may be an elegant addition to downtown, but at its the core, the Omni will provide a new space for the entire community to eat, drink and enjoy. VT
The Omni Hotel
Opening Tuesday, March 6 at 5 p.m.
400 S. Second St.