GRAND RAPIDS — Construction on a new downtown hotel starts this week, while work on downtown’s only four-star hotel, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, continues this week.
Alticor Inc. owns both hotels.
Security fencing is going up around the site of Alticor’s new Marriott-operated hotel, just south of the Campau Avenue and Pearl Street intersection. Razing the Israels building is the first task that needs to be completed in order to prepare the site for the construction of the 24-story, 340-room hotel.
Bert Crandell, who is managing the project for Alticor, said once Israels comes down, then work on creating the entrance from Pearl Street to the hotel will get underway. Work on the hotel’s foundation should get started in July and on the parking ramp in January.
Both foundations aren’t being dug and laid at the same time because an addition is being made to the Riverfront Building, which is situated on the same Campau Avenue parcel that will house the parking ramp. Work on the Riverfront should be finished in December, which means digging for the ramp’s foundation can get started the following month.
Infrastructure work on Campau Avenue will get started this summer, a project that the city is handling. Pepper Construction of Chicago and Rockford Construction are managing the hotel project. Lohan Caprile Goettsch of Chicago and BETA Design Group are doing the architectural work.
The city has approved every facet of the new hotel except for the helistop that was to be built on the roof of the four-story ballroom. City planners and commissioners rejected that design. But Crandell said he will return to the Planning Commission this month with a new design in hopes of getting the helistop approved.
Alticor officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new hotel in September and they plan to open the doors for business in September 2007.
Next September, though, is when work on the Amway Grand Plaza is expected to be done. Labor Day is the target date for completion of the belowground structural work in front of the hotel’s Monroe Avenue entrance and for the debut of a Starbucks in the solarium that the Monroe Café occupied.
“Those solariums and the main canopy over the door all get replaced and a lot of work is being done in those vaults beneath the sidewalk,” said Joseph Tomaselli, president of the Amway Grand Hotel Corp.
“What’s beneath the sidewalks is our bakeshop, our pastry shop and our maintenance shop,” he added. “All of the structural steel underneath those sidewalks has to be removed and replaced.”
Tomaselli said there wasn’t any danger of the sidewalk crumbling into the shops. Rather, Alticor officials just felt the time was right to do the work with the 24th anniversary of the Amway Grand coming up in September.
“With all the hard winters we’ve had and all the salt and cold over the years, there has been some erosion underneath those sidewalks, so it was time for us to take a look at that and we did,” said Tomaselli. “There wasn’t a concern about safety or any issue like that. We were probably five years away from any issues, but we decided to do it early.”
In addition to the solarium for the new Starbucks, which the hotel will own and operate, is a new solarium for The Grill at the 1913 Room. The Grill will be unlike any solarium that has fronted the hotel in the past, as it will have a definite Old World look.
“You will feel like you’re in Europe. Our inspiration for it was the Imperial Hotel in Vienna, Austria,” said Tomaselli.
A new canopy will go up over the entrance, and new lighting and landscaping will go in on Monroe Avenue. A new snowmelt system is also being installed, and once that is in place, the entire Amway Grand property will have heated sidewalks.
“It’s a lot of digging for a little project,” said Tomaselli.
Pioneer Construction is managing the project, which was designed by Gooch Design of Chicago.