|By Joyce Russell, The Times, Munster,
Ind.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
September 28, 2009 --PORTAGE -- The once shuttered hotel at the northwest corner of Ind. 249 and U.S. 20 has undergone a rebirth.
Now, bright and modern with amenities for both traveling families and business people, the new Best Western Portage Hotel and Suites is set to open Oct. 10.
It has been a long road for the building, which housed a Holiday Inn and then Ramada Inn franchises before it was closed by the city on numerous code violations in early 2003 and again in 2004. The building then sat vacant, selling to one group, and then was purchased by Pravin Patel of Buffalo, N.Y.
Patel said he saw a sound building within what was considered one of the city's biggest eyesores.
"We knew the location was a good location, and second, the structure of the building was really strong. It is 40 years old, but there is nothing wrong with the structure," Patel said.
After months of working with the city to gain approval, renovations to the building began last year. Patel invested some $5 million.
Originally housing about 160 rooms, a single-story and two-story portion of the building were knocked down. The front portion of the four-story building that had contained a restaurant also was demolished.
The interior was gutted. The exterior facade was replaced, along with all windows and the mechanical and electrical systems, said General Manager Anthony Turner.
Now the facility has 100 new rooms, including 36 suites that include both bedroom and living room areas.
The lobby area has been rebuilt, and it includes a breakfast bar and social area. There is a large meeting room that seats up to 100 and three smaller rooms that can be rented to the public for small parties or meetings. There's a new swimming pool with a miniature water play area for children and a new exercise room. There's a 24-hour business center, 24-hour sundry room and public laundry area. A second elevator was added and the original was overhauled.
"The building was completely stripped. There was nothing left but the poured concrete walls," said Turner, adding it was rebuilt to green specifications with 16-inch thick poured concrete exterior walls, which allow the temperature inside to remain a constant 72 degrees. Turner said they will seek both Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification on the building.
Once opened, it will have 30 full-time employees. Turner still is taking applications for front desk workers with hospitality experience.
Patel said the renovations have been a challenge.
"We made a promise to ourselves, and we made a promise to the people of the city of Portage," he said of moving forward with the project despite the turbulent economy and other hurdles. "We started it, we wanted to finish it, good economy or a bad economy."
The new Best Western Portage Hotel and Suites at Ind. 249 and U.S. 20 is set to open Oct. 10. It will have 100 rooms, including 36 suites.
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