It isn't just the small number of guest rooms (eight), its shared kitchen or its status as Bay View's only hotel that make Kinn Guesthouse buzz-worthy.
It's what it doesn't have, like a front desk, that make Kinn an unusual new player within Milwaukee's lodging scene.
"We didn't want to treat it as an ordinary hotel," owner Charles Bailey said. "But it's not quite as personal as going to someone's house, either."
Bailey and his wife, Connie, recently opened Kinn at 2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
The two-story, 11,500-square-foot building, which previously housed the Down and Over Pub, underwent extensive renovations for well over a year.
Bailey's company, Joca Properties LLC, received a $380,000 loan from nonprofit business lender Milwaukee Economic Development Corp. in late 2015 to help finance what was budgeted as a $950,000 project. That construction tab was higher than expected, Bailey said, with Joca Properties providing the additional cash.
The hotel's owners lease most of the building's first floor to the operators of Kindred restaurant, which opened in March. Kindred, which serves contemporary American dishes, is owned by sisters Marija and Vesna Madunic, who also own Firefly restaurant in Wauwatosa and Gracious Events catering.
One of Kinn's guest rooms also is on the first floor, making it accessible to people with disabilities. The seven other guest rooms, shared kitchen, communal TV room and self-serve laundry are on the second floor.
Kinn is neither a conventional hotel, with a front desk operated 24 hours a day, nor a bed and breakfast, with the operators living on-site.
Instead, Kinn is billed as a micro boutique hotel.
Kinn guests book their rooms through the hotel's website and through Airbnb.com, the Internet-based service featuring people who offer rooms at their homes for travelers.
That eliminates the need to employ reservation agents, with Airbnb charging a fee to the hotel for those bookings.
"It's a very cheap marketing tool," Charles Bailey said.
Also, there's no front desk.
Instead, a guest who books a room at Kinn receives two separate codes: one for the keypad that lets a guest into the hotel, and one for the individual hotel room.
Finally, housekeeping services for short stays are usually limited to cleaning the room after the guest checks out. Housekeeping is available on request for longer stays.
"People no longer require the level of service you get at a hotel," Bailey said. "If they don't want it, why provide it?"
By operating with a limited staff, Kinn can provide rooms at off-season rates starting at around $140 a night during week days, Bailey said. Weekend nightly rates during the summer will be around $225.
Upscale rooms and a third generation hotelier
The guest rooms have an upscale feel, with high ceilings, large windows and well-appointed furnishings, including flat-screen TVs and original local art work. They range from 350 to 550 square feet.
The decor, done with the help of Peabody's Interiors, also plays off the building's brick structure.
Its original construction dates to 1895, with additions in 1906 and 1908, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Built in the neoclassical design, the building initially served as a Masonic lodge until the early 1960s, according to the society.
Kinn is centered on the communal kitchen and TV lounge, two parts of one large room.
The kitchen includes a convection oven, sink, refrigerator, seating area and lots of counter space.
The lounge includes a TV, gas fireplace, sofa and mini library.
The room "allows for people to come together," Bailey said, similar to how the kitchen at a house party is often a natural gathering place for guests.
The kitchen also provides a way for travelers, particularly families with children, to save money on dining, Bailey said.
And for those travelers who want to dine out, Kindred — which includes a large communal dining table — is one of several popular Bay View restaurants that are within walking distance of the hotel.
Kinn also is near the Avalon Theater and other Bay View attractions, and just over a mile from South Shore Park on Lake Michigan.
"This is such a cool area," Bailey said.
Bailey, 47, has long wanted to open a small boutique hotel. Both his grandfather and father were hotel managers, of the Drake Hotel, on downtown Chicago's Michigan Ave., and the Drake Hotel in suburban Oak Brook, respectively.
Bailey worked in Chicago as a commodities trader before he and Connie, who grew up in Waukesha, moved with their young son, Quinn, to Shorewood more than three years ago. Working with real estate broker Steve Sewart, of Colliers International, the couple bought the Bay View building in September 2015.
Bookings at Kinn are starting to pick up, Charles Bailey said, including wedding parties for this summer. The hotel also is offering packages for the U.S. Open, scheduled for June 15-18 at Erin Hills in Washington County.
"We think large groups will gravitate to the property because they want to be together," he said.
Kinn is one of two new small boutique hotels on Milwaukee's south side.
The other, Hotel Madrid, is coming to 600 S. 6th St., in Walker's Point. The Spanish-themed hotel will have a pair of guest rooms on the upper floor of a two-story building that features the new Bodegon restaurant on the street level.
Those guest rooms are expected to open in late summer, said Sean Wile, director of marketing and public relations for StandEatDrink Hospitality Group, which is developing Hotel Madrid.
Tom Daykin can be reached at email@example.com