|By Andrew Wineke, The Gazette, Colorado
Springs, Colo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 07, 2012--When construction workers began remodeling the Mining Exchange Building three years ago, they uncovered an bronze-and-steel staircase hidden beneath drywall and carpet, with an intricate fleur-de-lis scrollwork supporting the bannisters. Perry Sanders Jr., who owns the historic structure and had a vision of turning it into Colorado Springs' first boutique hotel, adopted the symbol and it now graces the carpet in the lobby and drapes in the guest rooms.
"It's just so cool," Sanders said of the design. "It's something that amazing artisans 112 years ago did."
Sanders is just as enthusiastic about the entire hotel project, which is finally approaching the finish line and plans to open its doors May 2 as The Mining Exchange, A Wyndham Grand Hotel at 8 S. Nevada Ave.
"It was an exceptional building built in its day by one of the richest men in the world," Sanders said of the Exchange, built by Winfield Scott Stratton as a stock exchange for the many mining companies in the region. "I don't see any other building in town that would accommodate a historic boutique hotel. If this wasn't turned into that, I guess we would have never had one here in Colorado Springs."
Turning the 1901 stock exchange into a swanky hotel has been a grueling process. The initial $25 million budget grew to about $30 million, Sanders said. Little problems abounded and often led to bigger challenges. For instance, when workers dug a 15-foot-deep pit for the foundation of the elevator shaft, they discovered the exchange's foundation was 18 inches off of where the plans said it should be, necessitating redesigning the entire addition.
"In buildings this age, it turns out that there should definitely be a line item: 'Things you couldn't possibly in your wildest imagination dream up,'" Sanders said.
Although the Mining Exchange will be open in a few short weeks, it won't yet be finished. Sixty of the guest rooms in the adjacent Independence Building are still getting the finishing touches, as is the grand ballroom on the main floor of the Mining Exchange. Those should be completed in about a month after the initial opening. The phased opening will give the staff a chance to get up to speed, said Tyler Sherman, the hotel's general manager.
"As with most construction, it seems like it's so far away and then -- snap -- it's done," Sherman said. "On a week to week basis, it's amazing how many things get done."
A grand opening is planned for June. When the hotel is fully open, it expects to employ about 100 people, plus 50 more at Springs Orleans, the adjacent restaurant that has been doing well on its own for the past year but will soon fill its intended role as the Mining Exchange's in-house restaurant.
For now, the accoutrements for the first 57 rooms are stacking up: Flat screen TVs, bed frames, pallets of those miniature hotel soaps.
"There's an enormous logistical challenge to these things," Sherman said. "Until you have to source swizzle sticks, it just doesn't hit home how many things you have to order."
Transforming what had been urban office spaces for many decades into upscale hotel rooms required double panes of glass to shut off street noise and offset wall studs to offer guests privacy from their neighbors. Some of the rooms offer views across downtown to Pikes Peak, while others look down on the busy streets around the hotel. Sanders said those sorts of details are what he values when he stays in a hotel, so he wanted them for his own property.
"I've certainly been involved in every little detail," he said. "I had a pretty clear vision of what features I wanted all of the rooms to have and what features I wanted the lobby to have."
Sanders said he worked with designer Bobby Hill and Blue Spruce Constructors to save as many historic features as possible, while also shooting for an updated, urban feel in modern touches like the marble fireplace in the lobby, which required nearly a year of searching to find eight matching slabs of stone.
A boutique hotel is typically smaller than competing full-service hotels and offers a more personal feel. Steve Ducoff, executive director of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association, said the Mining Exchange could attract a new group of guests downtown.
"I think there is a niche in a boutique hotel downtown," he said. "I think this may be a great opportunity for them. For the industry, it might be something that will catch on and help bring a different clientele to town."
Sherman is confident that the Mining Exchange is different enough from the other lodging options in Colorado Springs that it will find its niche.
"We've got kind of a unique size and location," he said. "With the Antlers being the only other hotel downtown, it's perfect."
While the Mining Exchange leans upscale, Sherman said it offers a very different feel than, say, The Broadmoor.
"People go to The Broadmoor for the Broadmoor experience," Sherman said. "Whereas we're trying to provide the Mining Exchange, plus the whole downtown experience."
Sanders said he plans to save a small room for himself on opening night.
"It's really amazing to see images you have in your mind of how things fit together," he said. "Without exception, the final product has met or exceeded my greatest expectations."
Contact Andrew Wineke: 636-0275 Twitter @awineke
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