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New Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel Opens; Len Czarnecki, General Manger

By Patricia Sheridan, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Mar. 30, 2010--From the land of the Golden Gate Bridge to the home of the Golden Triangle, a legendary luxury hotel brings its culture of comfort to the center of the city at 510 Market St.

Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel, which opened yesterday, is the newest among 60 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts worldwide. Like the others, it is "authentically local ... with a modern interpretation," says Tom Storey, president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, headquartered in Toronto.

The soaring two-story lobby is filled with natural light and polished limestone and looks onto a small triangular park at the main entrance to the hotel. Milk glass panels rise above the sleek reception desk, which faces southwest to the Buhl Building, an ornate jewel box visible through a wall of windows.

It lends its classic beauty as a counter to all the stone, steel and glass. On the east side is a linear raised stone fireplace surrounded by steel benches. To the back is Andys, described as "art meets industry in a sleek wine bar." It's named for Pittsburgh's two famous Andrews: Carnegie and Warhol.

While all the furnishings came from within 500 miles of the site, it was San Francisco's Gensler design firm that was responsible for the architecture and styling of the interior spaces. A "green" building, it is expected to be confirmed as gold-level LEED-certified for all the eco-friendly materials used and sustainable practices.

Mr. Storey looks around the health club, with a marble and maple reception desk and a retail space, as well as a workout room with all the latest equipment and walls of windows (a signature of this hotel). He mentions two key components of every Fairmont Hotel: "An unrivaled presence in a prime location and a warm and engaging staff."

General manager Len Czarnecki says that what the company calls "culture carriers" come from other Fairmont properties to indoctrinate the new staff as to what is expected of a Fairmont employee.

"We are excited about being an integral part of the revitalization of Downtown and especially with a partner like PNC," adds Mr. Storey.

"Our design theme here was art and industry, with a contemporary bent," says Mr. Czarnecki.

That juxtaposition is evident throughout the public spaces, as well as the guest rooms. Steel I-beams are used as side tables along the main hall, which is lined with photographs of indigenous flora.

"We wanted all the spaces to be comfortable and maintain a sense of relaxation," he explains.

Familiar is another adjective that would work. All the paintings and photographs are by local artists, as is the chandelier in the main ballroom.

"It is made of glass from the Youghiogheny Valley, and all the work was done within 10 miles of the city limits by a team of artisans," notes the general manager.

Rob Long and Clear Story, a Pittsburgh company, created displays from artifacts found while excavating Three PNC Plaza. When workers found wells with evidence of mid-19th-century businesses, work was halted and archaeologist Christine Davis was brought in.

"There was a toy store, porcelain shop, tea shop, a doctor's office on this site," says Mr. Czarnecki.

The artifacts -- old glass bottles, pottery and china dolls -- are displayed on each residential floor near the elevators.

"They found 10 wells on the site and we have 10 guest room floors, so that is why we put them on each floor," Mr. Czarnecki says.

The hotel has 185 guest rooms and 20 suites, which will go for $179 to $3,000 a night. The standard room features the famously comfortable Fairmont mattress, a full-size desk, flat-screen TV and contemporary furnishings. Little details like the leather straps and buckles the mirror hangs from are examples of the attention to design.

The bathroom with standalone shower, bath, semi-private toilet and a large well-lit mirror offers plenty of counter space near the sink. The bath's style is a combination of artistic ceramic and glass tile and industrial elements like a large sliding barn door with a steel bar for a handle.

A unique feature of this hotel will be the cart-less room service.

"Instead of those big carts with towels and soaps that clog hallways, we will be using a small tote that can be pulled into each room for cleaning," explains Mr. Czarnecki.

The names of the old businesses formerly occupying the site -- like Yeager for a German boarding house -- are used to identify conference rooms.

Public spaces are covered in neutral-toned fabric wallpaper, with the pop coming from the oversized flower motif of the carpeting. On the same floor as the ballroom is the restaurant, Habitat. Windows looking in three directions from Market Square to the west, Heinz Hall to the east and PNC Park and the Allegheny River to the north, provide endless views for dinners. The chef's table, made from one large tree, seats 12 and is directly across from the open kitchen.

"We used to have a development strategy to put a Fairmont in every NFL city, and I can't think of a better one than Pittsburgh," says Mr. Storey.

Patricia Sheridan: psheridan@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2613.

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To see more of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.post-gazette.com.

Copyright (c) 2010, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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