Riverfront accommodations coming to downtown Niles

Published 8:48 am Friday, January 15, 2021

NILES — Views of the St. Joseph River, large, spa-like tiled showers, a mix of warm wood and modern industrial fixtures and unique touches for each room await travelers staying in downtown Niles.

Ten unique suites, ranging from accommodating two to eight people, are nearing completion on the riverfront across from the hospital. Owners of Riverfront Suites, LLC say the suites should be open to the public soon.

“We’re an alternative to hotels,” said Fred Boothby, owner of 20 N. Second street, the building where the suites are housed on the second floor.

Boothby and his family are originally from the Michiana area. He met his wife at Andrews University and said the family prefers wintering in Michigan, despite also owning properties in Tennessee. Together, Boothby and his wife own and manage vacation rentals in southwest Michigan and Tennessee.

Boothby became the sole owner of the building in 2019, after being a partial owner since 2012. With 100 percent occupancy just about reached on the first floor of the building, the second floor now houses 10 fully renovated and restyled rooms for visitors to stay in the downtown area. Most of the units overlook the river and have a modern-industrial feel in comparison to the building’s 1980s exteriors.

The building itself has come into the current decade, with the drop ceilings removed, revealing an industrial ceiling that has been painted black. Edison-type lightbulbs and glass strings of light offer warm lighting to the mix of industrial and country touches leant to the spaces.

Boothby is working with a local artisan out of Watervliet to make sure the fixtures and stained wood shelving and tables are just right for each of the rooms, which range from having a king bed paired with a conversion couch, to rooms with multiple beds.

Once the renovations are finished, Boothby said the suites will be available for booking on platforms akin to VRBO.

Boothby knows the location has something unique to offer to the area.

“This is a growing segment of the lodging industry,” Boothby said. “It’s an alternative. My appeal is not as broad as a hotel’s. I don’t have an elevator. I have stairs. I don’t have a pool. I don’t have cable, but I have a very well decorated space. I do have a very modern, industrial feel. I do have river views. I’m the only one downtown.”

Boothby also shows how each of the suites has a way to section off sleeping areas, even for those utilizing the pull-out couches, as a point of difference from hotels.

“It’s a different experience,” he said.

Unique tiles with wood-like finishes, clean subway tiles and unique patterns line the walls in each unit’s bathrooms.

Boothby said he hoped the accommodations would attract people to come explore downtown Niles, as they enjoy southwest Michigan.

He estimates between 300 to 450 people could be experiencing what downtown Niles has to offer to those traveling for business and pleasure through the region.

“They can visit the parks, the shops, the distillery, the brewery,” Boothby said. “I hope it will help those places as well.”