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Some 5 1/2 Years Later, the Addition to the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown
Hotel, the Former Hilton, Nearing Completion Putting an End to the Odyssey

By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 31, 2012--THE END IS NEAR -- to one of the longest-running construction projects in recent Pittsburgh history.

Some 5 1/2 years after it started, a modest -- and by now infamous -- addition to the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown hotel is nearing completion.

Frank Amedia, president of Mac Construction, the company overseeing the work, said Tuesday that the bulk of the construction should be finished in the next five to eight weeks.

By then, the 20,000-square-foot project will rival the 64 months it took to complete the massive 2.1 million-square-foot midfield terminal complex at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The addition, which includes a spa, a swimming pool, and new meeting space, has taken longer to build than PNC Park, Heinz Field, the Consol Energy Center, the light rail extension to the North Shore, and the 23-story Three PNC Plaza office, hotel and residential complex.

Since the building permit was issued for construction in August 2007, the $8 million project has experienced work stoppages due to unpaid bills, a bankruptcy and a change in the hotel's ownership and name, going from a Hilton to a Wyndham.

For a long time, the hotel was defined by the rust-colored structural steel skeleton that sat at its doorstep, a testament to its half-completed nature. It was deemed to be enough of an eyesore that it was covered for the 2009 G-20 economic summit that brought world leaders to Pittsburgh.

"It's been quite a odyssey," Mr. Amedia said.

The project, he said, is about 85 percent complete. Nearly all of the exterior work has been finished; the structural steel has been covered and replaced with a facade of mostly glass.

Most of the work yet to be done is on the inside.

Although the King's Garden meeting rooms, which were closed for a time because of the construction, have reopened, about 8,000 square feet of new conference space has yet to be finished. Mr. Amedia said the main reason that is not yet done is that the hotel and its owner, Tampa cardiologist Kiran C. Patel, decided to upgrade the space's audio visual equipment, which has yet to arrive.

"The doctor is spending a lot of more money. The hotel has decided, with the owner, to go to the premium level [in terms of amenities]," he said.

Workers are finishing up tile work around the indoor swimming pool. Once that is done and a special humidity control system has been installed, the pool and the spa should be ready to open, Mr. Amedia said.

In all, he anticipates that the finishing touches will take another five weeks or so.

In addition, the hotel is waiting for a custom-made hand rail to be completed for the grand staircase that leads from the hotel lobby to the ballroom level where the new meeting rooms are located. The staircase, which has been out of commission because of the construction, is hidden behind a temporary wall that will be removed once the work is finished. Mr. Amedia said the hand rail should arrive in four to eight weeks.

With the staircase closed, hotel guests have had to take elevators to get to the ballrooms on the second level. A couple times the elevators have malfunctioned, forcing guests to take back stairwells to get to the ballrooms.

The hotel also has decided to turn the lobby space that originally was intended to be a restaurant into more conference room space. By the time work is completed in March, Mr. Amedia said, the Wyndham will boast more than 50,000 square feet of meeting space, the most of any hotel in the city.

Beyond the addition-related work, the hotel also has installed new tile in the lobby and is upgrading other finishes. It also has replaced the hotel's roof and has put in new carpeting outside of the ballrooms, Mr. Amedia said. "They really want to push this hotel to a five-star level, a five-star conference center," he said.

Mark Belko: or 412-263-1262.


(c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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