Upcoming Kelly Hotel in historic Birmingham building set to open Spring 2021

The upcoming Kelly Hotel under construction on 1st Avenue South. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

A 92-year-old tower in downtown Birmingham is getting a new lease on life. The Protective Life Building is being renovated as the Kelly Hotel, a 96-room luxury hotel with a beautiful atmosphere reminiscent of the building’s history. Learn more.

A Birmingham Landmark since 1928

The Birmingham Ledger Building—the predecessor to today’s structure—in 1914. Photo via BhamWiki

The story of the Protective Life Building actually begins in 1902, when the Birmingham Ledger completed their 3-story headquarters on the corner of 1st Avenue and 21st Street. The forward-thinking architects designed the concrete + steel frame sturdily enough to support additional floors in the future.

An old postcard of the Protective Life Building. Photo via BhamWiki

In 1928, the Protective Life Insurance Company purchased the building and hired the architectural firm of Warren, Knight & Davis to create the 14-story structure that exists today. Inspired by the Art-Deco movement in France, the building featured cream-colored terra-cotta trim, a cornice with protruding battlements and a copper roof serving as the crown for the penthouse.

After 48 years in the building, the Protective Life Insurance Company moved to their new headquarters in Mountain Brook. For a while, the building was home to the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, which adorned the building with a large, vertical neon “Commerce Center” sign.

In 2010, LAH Commercial Real Estate brokered the sale of the Protective Life Building to an investor, who then sold the building to its current owner.

Say Hello to the Kelly Hotel

A rendering of the first floor of the upcoming Kelly Hotel. Photo courtesy of the Sims Patrick Studio

“We are excited to see this historic corner in Birmingham come back to life with new energy and activity! Anytime we can create a new hotel within an old classic building, it is an extraordinary opportunity to build a unique story for the community.”

The design team at Sims Patrick Studio

In 2018, Birmingham-based developer Rhaglan Hospitality—who also designed the Redmont Hotel—began renovations on the Protective Life Building, with the goal of creating an upscale hotel. The new hotel—known as the Kelly Hotel—will join the luxury line of the Hilton Tapestry collection.

The Details

Birmingham’s Protective Life Building/Commerce Center. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

“My husband, the developer, named the hotel after me. I love to travel more than anything, so the notion was to be able to bring back everything—from design to cocktails to wines that we love—out of town and back home to my favorite city of all—Birmingham!”

Kelly Rushin Lewis, partner in JK Commerce

In addition to the 96 rooms and suites, the Kelly Hotel will include luxurious lobby bar and restaurant—and possibly a jazz club or speakeasy in the basement. Rhaglan’s goal is to transform the building into a public venue, where everyone—not just guests—can come to enjoy a night out on the town.

The vision for the Kelly Hotel is to be the Redmont’s slightly wilder little sister, with a little darker, edgier design scheme. The historic features of the building—decorative domed ceiling, original trim, decorative light fixtures, marble floors—will be accentuated with bold colors, patterns and textures to bring new energy to the space.

The overall neutral backdrop will feature jewel-toned accents, a collection of curated eclectic artwork and seating for groups of any size. Plus, the smoke glass mirrors, and architectural arches with clean lines will give off a timeless, neo-modern vibe. Overall, the Kelly Hotel will feature building’s original, 1928 style with a modern twist.

What’s Next?

Birmingham’s Protective Life Building/Commerce Center. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

The building is in the midst of renovations, but Rhaglan Hospitality hopes to open the Kelly Hotel in Spring 2021. The new hotel will join the flurry of activity and renovations in the district—projects like the Elyton Hotel, Mercantile on Morris, the Brown-Marx project and more.

What kind of restaurant would you like to see in the Kelly Hotel? Steakhouse? Upscale Greek?  French bistro? Tag us @bhamnow and let us know!

  • Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.