Ohio’s “Big Basket building” may be turned into a luxury hotel, under a new plan for preserving the vacant, seven-story structure.
Ohio developer and the building’s current co-owner, Steve Coon, announced on October 21 that the former Longaberger Basket Company headquarters in Newark, Ohio—shaped like a giant picnic basket and covered with fake basketweave siding—will be converted to a luxury hotel and that its exterior will remain intact, if his development team can secure historic tax credits to help finance the project.
Coon made the announcement during the Ohio Heritage Conference, one day after his team held an open house that drew thousands of visitors, including former employees and preservationists.
“We looked at everything,” Coon said, according to a report in The Newark Advocate. “But the best value was a hotel.”
The building’s two “handles,” each reportedly weighing 75 tons, “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 owners have hired Cleveland’s Sandvick Architects to design a hotel that will include a restaurant and indoor pool, as well as about 150 upper-level guest rooms.
In a posting on its website after the open house, the Sandvick team said its plans “will be sure to keep the unique basket shape and will honor the history of this iconic building.”
Originally constructed at a cost of $30 million, from 1997 to 2016 the building served as headquarters for the titular basket company. Founder Dave Longaberger had the original architect, NBBJ, design the structure as an exact replica of the company’s best-selling product, the Medium Market Basket, only 160 times larger.
The building sits on a 21-acre parcel on the east side of Newark and is easy for drivers traveling along Route 16 to spot. It has been vacant since employees were consolidated three years ago with Longaberger’s manufacturing facility near Frayzeysburg, Ohio, as a cost-savings measure. The founder died in 1999 and the company eventually shuttered for good in 2018.
Coon, who heads Coon Restoration and Sealants in Louisville, Ohio, and business partner Bobby George of Cleveland, bought the building in 2017 for $1.2 million and have renovated it over the past year, with Sandvick as the architect. They then put it back on the market earlier this year, saying it could have a variety of uses.
At that same preservation conference, Coon revealed another team member is David Crisafi of Ceres Enterprises in Westlake, Ohio, a development company that owns and operates hotels.
The team did not say what brand the hotel would be or disclose a budget for the conversion. They said they hope to learn about the tax credits by mid-2020, and that construction would take about 18 months after that.