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Owner of Pennsylvania's 712-room Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown
Plans for October Completion of Long-Delayed Expansion Project

The End is in Sight for the Former Pittsburgh Hilton & Towers after Five Years,
a Previous Owner's Bankruptcy, and an Investment of More than $15 Million

By Kim Leonard, The Pittsburgh Tribune-ReviewMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 10, 2012--The long-delayed, glass-enclosed addition with a sweeping roofline at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown is to be completed in October, the hotel's owner says.

That's three or four months later than Dr. Kiran Patel says he would have liked. But the Tampa businessman, who estimates he has invested more than $15 million in the former Pittsburgh Hilton & Towers, said on Thursday that he gets weekly reports on the project that has stretched for five years, through a previous owner's bankruptcy.

"I have not visited the property, but I get calls and pictures," said Patel, a cardiologist who built WellCare HMO into one of the country's largest Medicaid health maintenance organizations. He owns several hotels and other properties.

Frank Amedia, whose Miami-based Mac Construction is building the addition after renovating the 712-room hotel in 2010, said the steel framework for the three-story addition will be completely enclosed by early September.

A delayed shipment of custom-made glass panels for the exterior arrived on Wednesday, Amedia said. Workers were installing them on Thursday.

Deliveries of specially made chandeliers, carpets, motorized drapes and other equipment are due in coming weeks.

Amedia said his company will finish the inside of the structure by early October, including a grand staircase from the lobby to the second-floor ballroom and conference areas. Sidewalks, driveways and other site work will be done by early November, he said.

"It's a major player in the city, and we need them to be successful. The rest of the hotels need them," VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis said of the Wyndham Grand, Pittsburgh's largest hotel, with more than 40,000 square feet of conference space now.

The addition to the hotel's front will add 8,000 square feet for meetings, plus fitness and retail spaces.

Wyndham Hotel Group representatives, who earlier projected a summer completion for the work, could not be reached for comment.

Former owner Shubh Hotels Pittsburgh LLC announced the expansion in early 2007, then met with financial troubles that stalled work for about two years. The unfinished steel frame was derided as an eyesore, and it was covered for the G-20 economic conference that drew world leaders to the city in 2009.

Shubh sought court protection from creditors in 2010 after Hilton pulled its flag and the hotel's chief lender began foreclosure proceedings. Patel, an investor in the hotel, became its owner in the midst of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

"This is a valuable asset. It is an iconic property in Pittsburgh and has very good potential," Patel said. The Hilton opened in 1959 across from Point State Park.

Despite challenges for the hospitality business in many cities, "to me, these are some assets I don't mind owning long-term. This is an income-producing property, so it is no drain on me personally," Patel said. "Its value can only go up."

Amedia said Patel spent more than $1.25 million to install new roofs over the past four months. Recent delays on the addition were caused by changes that had to be made to original plans, plus weather and permitting issues, the men said.

City Councilman R. Daniel LaValle, whose district includes Downtown, said the finished hotel will complement new developments nearby such as River Vue Apartments in the former State Office Building next door.

"All the talk I hear is: 'We can't wait until it's finished,' " LaValle said.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

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(c)2012 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Visit The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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