|By Kevin Collison, The Kansas City Star,
Mo.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 10, 2012--A Houston firm will become the operator of the unfinished luxury hotel designed for Plaza Vista, completing the Country Club Plaza-area development formerly known as the West Edge.
Valencia Group plans to name its new 132-room property the Hotel Sorella, the Italian word for sister, and essentially retain the exterior of the seven-story structure designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie.
The companion office building to the north, also designed by Safdie, was razed to make way for a new headquarters for the Polsinelli Shughart law firm.
For the interior of the hotel, however, Valencia Group plans to make extensive changes to add an Italian Modern flair that it believes will make the hotel the finest in Kansas City.
The Hotel Sorella is scheduled to open in synch with the 10-story Polsinelli Shughart office tower in fall 2013.
"If you go around the world and identify the top hotels and what elements make them special, they're independent in nature and not part of a (big) chain," Roy Kretschmer, executive vice president of Valencia Group, said Monday.
"These are the type of hotels we like to develop and operate. ... It's not just design, not just the programming.
"We have a very customized experience," Kretschmer said. "We outperform our competitors because of the uniqueness of our overall experience."
In addition to its new Kansas City operation, Valencia Group (www.valenciagroup.com) runs luxury hotels in Houston, San Jose, Calif., and San Antonio and is building a hotel in Austin, Texas.
Jeff Dillon, director of development for VanTrust Real Estate, the company owned by businessman Cecil Van Tuyl that took over the stalled West Edge project three years ago, said Valencia Group was chosen from among 20 proposals submitted after a national search.
"We went through a vigorous process in which many of the best luxury hotel operators in the country submitted proposals," he said.
"The Valencia Group not only won the proposal competition but exceeded our expectations in every way."
Gemstone Resorts International, the Utah-based operator chosen by the former developer of the West Edge, advertising guru Bob Bernstein, did not re-apply to VanTrust to run the revised hotel project.
Gould Evans Associates and Davison Architecture + Urban Design, both of Kansas City, are in charge of redesigning the hotel to the specifications of the Valencia Group.
J.E. Dunn Construction, which also is building the new Polsinelli Shughart building, is the contractor. Work is expected to begin in about 30 days.
The biggest change to the original interior will be the removal of an atrium designed by Safdie that extended from the lobby to the top floor. Instead, the atrium will be filled in on the fourth and sixth floors, leaving a less grand, 2 1/2 story space.
The most dynamic public space at the Hotel Sorella will remain a restaurant, outdoor terrace and pool area on the top floor facing the northwest.
"We're maintaining the location, but bringing in an original concept and we hope to make it a dramatic, high-end restaurant and bar where you can literally walk out onto the pool deck," Dillon said.
Kretschmer said a fine dining and drinking establishment is a signature element of Valencia Group.
"Food and beverage is critical to us," he said. "People won't want to stay in their rooms, but enjoy the hotel."
The target market will be well-heeled business travelers, social and corporate groups, and leisure travelers seeking an upscale and unique experience. Room rates will be from the low $200 to $300 range.
About 100 people are expected to be employed at the hotel.
In addition to eliminating the soaring atrium, the hotel interior will be revamped to accommodate a fitness club and spa.
The main entrance will remain on the north side of the hotel, facing a private drive between it and the Polsinelli Shughart building that opens to Belleview Avenue and Roanoke Parkway.
The entire Plaza Vista complex will be served by a 1,000-space underground garage.
To reach Kevin Collison, call 816-234-4289 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
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