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Sat March 14, 2015 - Southeast Edition
Located on property owned by the non-profit Spruill Center for the Arts, the new Residence Inn by Marriott in Dunwoody, Ga., is designed to serve an eclectic mix of guests. Developed by Hotel Development Partners (HDP), the seven-story building will be 92,366 sq. ft. (8,581 sq m) with 124 guest rooms when construction is complete.
The $16.7 million project consists of a cold form metal framing and hollow core plank structure, an EIFS and brick façade, upscaled site scape, an outdoor pool and extensive site work and retaining walls. In addition to the hotel, the site development includes substantial site earthwork, an underground storm water retention system and commercial outparcels.
Atlanta-based Winter Construction is serving as the general contractor. According to Heather Tuskowski, project executive, “The site is challenging. It requires extensive grading and large retaining walls, remediation of unsuitable soils and tight logistics.”
Construction began in October 2015 and should be completed by spring 2017. Equipment being used on the job includes dump trucks, an excavator, a crawler dozer, a vibratory compactor and a front loader. Currently crews are installing mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls and continuing with site grading.
“We are overseeing haul-off of unsuitable soils material,” Tuskowski said. “We are installing temporary shoring walls, and preparing to install a Geopier rammed aggregate pier for soil reinforcement. Excavation is underway for underground storm water detention. We are also working on site utilities, including sanitary sewer, storm and water.
“There's an anticipated volume of 21,000 cubic yards of unsuitable soil that will need to be hauled off throughout the site. The sequencing of all site work activities is a challenge on the project, and logistical planning has been key to ensure that safe access is available to all work areas while still allowing all critical path work to proceed. MSE wall construction, permanent storm detention installation, site utility work, Geopier installation and retaining wall construction must be performed prior to starting on the vertical construction of the hotel.”
The hotel's structure is light-guage framing and hollow core planks with concrete topping slabs. The building's skin is exterior insulation and finishing system with brick accents. Fin windows and storefront walls are featured. The building is topped by a membrane roof.
Early on, crews experienced one setback on the project.
“A geotechnical consultant discovered unforeseen additional unsuitable materials beneath an MSE retaining wall, and we needed to work through the most efficient and cost effective solution to this, which included exporting unsuitables and importing stone,” said Tuskowski.
Two commercial outparcels also play a role in the ongoing construction.
“We need to be sure that building pads are prepared for tenant construction, and that we are out of their way to the greatest extent possible to ensure they have proper access and laydown area for their work. It's always a challenge to construct on a tight sight with multiple general contractors working on different projects, but the key to making it work is early and ongoing communication.”
Tuskowski also said that erosion control requires constant upkeep and monitoring.
“It's as important as safety, and we need to ensure that sediment is retained on our site and not running off to adjacent properties. With site utilities, proper sequencing and flow are key to ensure that they are placed most efficiently and safely.”
Cooler temperatures also had to be addressed.
“The weather is absolutely a factor,” said Tuskowski. “We started earthwork and site work activities at the start of winter, and are fighting weather every day as the season continues. It makes for slow progress and lost work days. Even working extended hours and Saturdays when weather permits does little to overcome an El Nino season we're having this year.”
A high-end restaurant and 6,000 sq. ft. (557 sq m) retail building also will be located on the site. The Spruill Gallery and Gift Shop occupies a historic farmhouse that will remain on the property, along with a new sculpture garden.
Created in 1975, the Spruill Center for the Arts is a private organization promoting an appreciation of the visual arts through classes, professional artist exhibition series and outreach programs. Arts Center CEO Bob Kinsey said the terms of the land lease would provide a long-term stream of dependable income for the Arts Center. Kinsey also expects the restaurant and the Spruill Residence Inn to bring many more visitors to the gallery.
Richard Rauh & Associates Architects is serving as the design team for the project. Richard Rauh took note that the client is developing a site in a community that has set high standards regarding the architectural style of such a large building in a location they're accustomed to seeing as a wooded hillside.
“Pitched roof imagery that suggested low-to-mid tier rate apartments was particularly worrisome to the Dunwoody zoning board and other interested parties, including the Spruill board,” said Rauh. “The architectural treatment chosen aligns the Marriott product being built here with the contemporary look of that brand in some of its best known upscale markets such as Washington DC/northern Virginia, the Mid-Atlantic region and Boston.”
One of the main design challenges involved the property itself.
“The site slopes severely, and the water runs from the top of the hill where the historic Spruill center sits, down toward the hotel and past it. Managing the storm water and finding a way to retain it — under the parking lot down slope from the hotel, but still on site — was an important development issue. Also, the site had been irresponsibly cleared and filled in the past and there is substantial problematic organic fill present. Putting the puzzle pieces together for the required parking, building footprints including out parcels and retaining walls was a challenge that left no room for any wasted space.
“The hotel was reconfigured and rotated numerous times as each schematic approach to the site was explored over many months. The final solution presents a front door and drop off uphill toward the Spruill Center, but has a second 'front' facing downhill where the majority of the hotel guests will park their cars. This 'two-fronts' configuration is unusual and not at all prototypical.”
According to architect Ann Fitzgerald, Spruill Center is the dominant community feature of the site at the top of the hill facing the primary street, Ashford Dunwoody. The proforma for the development required finding space for outparcels, and massing adequate outparcel buildings square footage in a way that enhanced Spruill Center and did not diminish it was important.
“Also, the Center needed outdoor event space and a yard to buffer it from the downhill development of retail, parking and the hotel. The integrated site plan was evaluated for its urban design support of Spruill as much, if not more, than the hotel structure itself was. The site slopes so much that the tall downhill hotel is minimally visible behind Spruill from the Center's primary frontage on Ashford Dunwoody, and therefore the hotel does not overpower Spruill,” said Fitzgerald.
“Unlike most other commercial building types, a hotel is not a shell building. It's a fully built-out business, right down to the towel racks and iPad chargers in the wall, and it has to be ready for a first full day of business immediately on completion. Shell buildings are lease space that can take years to fill up, while a hotel is fully completed faster and is more complicated, said Fitzgerald.
“Also, the brands have strict standards for almost every feature of the completed building and physical business environment which can make this building type quite difficult for inexperienced developers and contractors. Hotels in this tier, however, are invariably team efforts, and there are usually experienced participants on these teams who are there every day during the project to keep things from going off the rails.”
“Upper tier restaurants and hospitality have a lot in common in their space planning, marketing and construction technology, although restaurants are generally simple one-story buildings. The importance of the latest, up-to-date interior design is also a similarity. As with hotels, a big factor in destination restaurants is the visual entertainment component of the customer experience. Both hotel and restaurant guests and customers want to feel that they have been some place special, some place they can remember, and the more successful projects deliver on that. The best commercial design knows its audience and knows how to speak to that audience.”
Rauh said environmental protection and sustainability also played a role in the design process.
“Preservation of tree canopy, storm water detention from impermeable surfaces and water quality of run off, water-saving plumbing fixtures, LED lighting, minimization of building footprints, thermally broken window technology, low-e glass, thermally efficient window-to-wall ratios, redundant door entry vestibules and many other considerations are all routine practices in hotel construction.”
Rauh said hotel projects have a large team of coordinated professional consultants working together, each with its own expertise and experience, and ideally each with a clear understanding of what they can do to support the other parties on the team. Coordination on the owner side of design for general construction and the general construction itself must be skillfully married to interior design, ordering, purchasing, storing and installing the interior package at the right time and also designing, ordering purchasing and installing food service equipment and all other items of furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Certain items are designed, purchased and provided by the owner but installed by the general contractor. It is a very complicated and ideally, perfectly timed dance of many players.
“Hotel architecture for us is a continuum that spans decades and is constantly evolving,” Rauh said. “The brands themselves are never static, but are always innovating, improving and updating their products and their attitude toward their customers. The first decade of the 21st century has seen many novel and adventurous ideas about hospitality emerge, get tried and get further developed.”
Rauh said the property will feel like a retreat from the high intensity of the Perimeter Mall environment on a quiet site protected by mature trees, but it will have easy access to all the activities that the premier office/retail hub of Atlanta has to offer.
He said, “New hotel construction invariably occurs in emerging, healthy, economically vibrant areas of cities which means that we, as architects, get to be a part of that, to feel that pulse. Since our office designs hotels for our clients in dozens of states in the U.S., we get to see how many American cities are growing, and we get to see what the American economy values in real time.”
Winter Construction also is building the Hampton Inn and Suites a block away on Ashford Dunwoody, at the Sterling Pointe development.