Long-awaited downtown Hyatt Regency ‘comes to life.’ Will it be needed when it’s completed?
A crane will lift the last carrier of the $ 377 million Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City into place on Friday, November 12, 2021. The hotel is connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center. (Shafkat Anowar, Desert News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – “Tenacity” is the word that came to Roger Zampell’s mind when he looked up at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center hotel in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday.
This is not only because the building has been under construction for about a decade, but the world has changed so much since the groundbreaking for the building in January 2020. Just two months after that ceremony, COVID-19 struck and has since messed up everything.
“Our team had to go to superhuman efforts to make up for COVID, labor shortages, shortages of materials, supply chain issues – whatever they had to deal with,” said Zampell, senior vice president of development at Portman Holdings, the owner of the building.
Despite these hardships, “tenacity” is the reason the construction of the $ 377 million building is still on schedule and on budget, and why those in charge of the project are confident that the project will be completed in time for the opening in October 2022.
To this end, the crews celebrated in a so-called topping-out ceremony on Friday when a crane lifted the last beam for the structure’s skeleton. An American flag and small tree – a nod to the old Scandinavian practice of placing a tree on top of a new building to appease religious spirits – accompanied the journey up to where the beam was attached.
“It really is a rite of passage,” said Derek Hoffine, vice president of Hensel Phelps, the contractor who was commissioned to build it. “So if you lift that beam, this building will come to life in that moment. It symbolizes that the building is brought to life. “
Those behind or working on the project also signed the final bar with a permanent marker before putting it in place. Hoffine added that unlike most final beams – painted orange, white, and yellow to match a design on the structure – this beam will be visible when the building is completed.
And let’s go pic.twitter.com/gLsQAYUDkJ
– Carter Williams (@cwilliamsKSL) November 12, 2021
Salt Lake County’s tourism experts have long believed the building, which will bring 700 hotel rooms to the county, will be a living place once it opens. But has that changed since COVID-19?
The demand for hotels after COVID-19
Urban tourism in the state hit a snag in 2020 that lasted much longer than outdoor tourism in Utah. This poses a problem for Utah’s $ 10 billion tourism industry, with roughly half of all tourism spending in the four most populous counties: Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber.
Kaitlin Eskelson, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, told KSL.com in April that COVID-19 has cost Salt Lake County an estimated 350,000 travelers and more than 550,000 hotel stays downtown, causing economic damage of $ 357 million led. Hotel occupancy in downtown Salt Lake City fell below 20% for months.
The University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute estimated that Salt Lake County’s temporary room tax revenues were down 48.5% in 2020 compared to 2019, giving an idea of how poor occupancy was after the outbreak of COVID-19 was.
This year has been a lot friendlier for the industry. The Salt Palace Convention Center, the building to which the new Hyatt Regency is attached, resumed its conventions in 2021. There were also congresses in other locations in the city center. Sales levels remain below pre-pandemic levels, but there is optimism that the industry will recover.
I definitely think people are eager to get back together to have face-to-face meetings. We look forward to opening our doors next fall and seeing it come to life.
–Pina Purpero, Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City
The 700 rooms of the 25-story Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City will include 33 luxury suites and there will be 60,000 square feet of meeting space. It will also feature a rooftop pool on the sixth floor, a fitness center, and a restaurant with outdoor dining and fire pits.
The interest in the new congress hotel is already encouraging. Some groups have started booking their future stays, said Pina Purpero, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City.
“I definitely think people really need to get back together to have face-to-face meetings,” she told KSL.com. “We look forward to opening our doors next fall and seeing it come to life.”
Construction workers Cory Bell (left) and Dave Moho strap the final log for the $ 377 million Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City to a crane as participants watch on Friday. The hotel is connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)
Purpero sees the new building as the future “headquarters” for Salt Lake City – a building that is not only part of the Salt Palace Convention Center, but is only a few blocks away from other venues that can attract large crowds, such as the Vivint Arena or Temple Square. The city also attracts people who come to Utah for outdoor recreation, particularly the mountain resorts east of the city.
As the industry works to recover, the Purpero hotel chain has worked closely with the Convention Center staff, Visit Salt Lake, and even the other hotels in the city to make downtown Salt Lake City a destination for business and leisure travelers alike to make equally.
Visit Salt Lake even launched a program in August that offers discounts to attractions and breweries in Salt Lake County when they book a hotel stay at participating Salt Lake County hotels.
Purpero said she believes both business and leisure travel will return to normal at some point.
“When exactly? When will there be the trigger to make people 100% comfortable? I can’t tell, but we already have some groups booking which is a positive sign for the future,” she said. “I think this amount will only increase over the next few months.”
Work on the ever-changing downtown skyline
It is difficult not to overlook the new hotel as it is being built. When completed, it will be the 10th tallest building downtown at 327 feet – ninth among currently completed buildings, but behind 95 State, a 392-foot skyscraper nearing completion.
The construction of both buildings celebrated milestones this month. Last week, while crews “covered” the new hotel in the convention center, workers lit 95 State, three blocks northeast of the Hyatt Regency, for the first time. 95 State is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The 95 State with the blue-lit roof lit up the night on November 5th. The Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City Hotel can be seen on the far left. Both will be among the top 10 tallest completed buildings in Salt Lake City by the end of 2022. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)
But building the skyline has not been easy in the past 20 months. Adding a completely new building to be added to an existing one was not a huge challenge; The bigger design problem is items that are largely out of your control.
Hoffine said they expected construction difficulties, especially after COVID-19. The hardest part of the construction, he said, was originally getting the right amount of labor.
A construction worker watches the final beam for the $ 377 million Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City lift on Friday. The hotel is connected to the Salt Palace Convention Center. (Photo: Shafkat Anowar, Desert News)
Supply chain problems and material shortages required a little more creativity. They found ways to stay on schedule despite these issues as they worked on parts of the project until certain materials arrived when possible.
“It could have meant that some work was done out of order or you had to work at the same time, which would not be ideal if you are planning a job of this size,” he said. “Those are the things we had to do and it worked out fine … Our team did a really good job not to let some of the things that happen on other projects elsewhere affect this project. “