Dream Weavers II

Editor's Note: This four-part series follows the birth of a major hotel development project, from conception and design through construction and installation to opening day. It's an exciting and hectic collaborative process, full of creative and technical challenges. This month we follow the team as it oversees design details and interiors take shape.

On a balmy day in early January, the construction site of the towering Rosen Shingle Creek resort is oddly quiet, belying a harried race to complete the 1,500-room resort in time for its scheduled Sept. 30 soft opening. One wouldn't guess that between 850 and 900 workers are on site, many, round the clock. At peak times that number can increase to 1,100.

In the site trailers, which house Rosen managers and the architectural staff, Orlando visionary/developer Harris Rosen greets visitors, drops wearily into a chair and plops his dusty work boots on top of a conference table.

He listens intently as Project Coordinator Mark Davidson of HHCP Architects, Inc. recounts his busy day and provides project updates; then they exchange a bit of industry gossip. Rosen has hired his own paint crews to work 24/7 on the interiors. At this time, the project is 60-percent complete and framed to level 12, reports Davidson. Finish painting and texturizing is done up to level four of the guestrooms. Millwork is in place and doors are being installed.

In an earlier conversation, Davidson talked about the uniqueness of this project: “This is the largest facility we've done for Harris,” notes Davidson. “This has been the retirement project for our firm. The core architectural team in the beginning consisted of Tom Hurley, the lead designer, John Anderson as lead coordinator and Bruce Otte as the senior project coordinator. John and Tom have since retired and Bruce now works elsewhere.

“When I came on board, I'd just come off four-and-a-half years on the Orlando convention center, so it was tough coming here at design development phase.

“Budget is always a challenge, too,” adds Davidson. “We have an owner who is very cost-conscious and very hands- on. The project is a constant battle over cost and how to achieve the best quality for the most economical figure.” Add to that the fact that last year's hurricanes resulted in cost increases for construction materials, not to mention labor shortages resulting from the booming Orlando market.

Continues Davidson: “The advantage of such close owner involvement is decisions can be made immediately. You're not sitting around waiting for a committee to come to agreement. What was also special about this project is the owner retained the contractor in the conceptual design phase. Usually architects and engineers complete the full set of documents and it goes out for bid. Signing on a contractor so early on allowed the contractor to become involved with ways to save construction costs. And the immensity of the project is another challenge. It's just huge. We're handling the construction administration architecturally with a staff of four.”

Davidson says he communicates daily with, among others, the interior designers, the foodservice consultant, the laundry consultant, the mechanical and structural engineer, and of course, Harris, and Garritt Toohey, vice president. He usually arrives on site around five in the morning and stays until about six at night.

SELLING THE VISION

During the January visit, Leslie Menichini, director of sales and marketing, is a bundle of energy, chattering excitedly about the property and her vision of it booked full of guests and events. She's both endearingly friendly yet hungry to take on the tough Orlando competition. She tools around the property in a golf cart, ferrying meeting planners and other interested folks on site visits. She's done dozens of these tours, often with Rosen in tow, and yet her awe and excitement about the place is still evident in her conversations. She guides her visitors through the maze of fourth-floor guestrooms, where workers are painting the walls a soft butter yellow; the ceilings are a departure from the typical white — they're a lovely sky blue. Menichini nods approvingly and then eyes a piece of crown molding that doesn't exactly match its mate. She frowns and makes a mental note to get it fixed.

It's the resort's convention center that sends her into raptures, though. This is her baby, where she had direct input in its design. She points out the extra wide doorways, the soaring ceiling heights, the multiple loading docks, the separate entrance for bus traffic. No detail has been overlooked. “For layout capabilities in meeting space, we'll give Marriott World Center a run for their money,” she vows. “We're less than 10 minutes from the airport, less than four miles from Universal, two miles from Sea World. Our ballrooms are fully carpeted. We're finished, others aren't. We're booking to 2017,” she reports.

Adds Davidson: “What makes the convention center special is it's column-less. The structural engineering team addressed the challenge by designing trusses that are 12 feet tall that can span, using the tilt wall construction of the outer wall, the entire width of the room.”

SOURCING ISSUES

The model guestroom set up in the sales trailer is a vision of old Florida elegance and refinement, the dark wood case goods large and substantial-looking with intricate, heavy carvings and graceful lines.

“They (the owner and his staff) wanted an inviting, comfortable room that was more Southern traditional in feel in keeping with the Shingle Creek theme,” says Brenda Hall, guest-rooms designer.

Soft golds are prevalent in the room, like in the tone on tone gold carpet, together with accents of rich terra cotta and dark aqua.

The traditional furnishings exist harmoniously with the high tech plasma TVs and the evocative artwork.

Rosen VP Garritt Toohey, an accomplished and intuitive photographer, created the beautiful botanical photo prints that grace the guestroom walls.

Installation is slated to begin late winter. “We decided to purchase most of our furniture from China and we were all a bit anxious about that,” says Rosen. “Traditionally we've bought from North or South Carolina. My wife and I went to China and toured the factories. We met with the owners and developed a good relationship. It was a wonderful experience. We were concerned about quality and delivery issues. But the quality I saw was first rate. And we're on schedule to receive timely shipments.”

Rosen wished to see for himself the factory's conditions, which he deemed satisfactory. “The workers make 50 cents an hour plus room and board and medical services, and work 10 hours a day, six days a week. The product cost is an advantage too — they have access to wood from Asian and Indochine nations, and Malaysia.”

During their visit, the Rosens distributed to factory workers 2,400 Shingle Creek t-shirts. They also purchased 20 mopeds, drew names and awarded the coveted wheels to 20 lucky workers.

For the public spaces, designer Kristine Gregonis specified a Spanish Revival style, including the convention center, the lobby with its 14-station front desk backed by arched exterior windows, 10 food and beverage outlets and a 14,000- square-foot spa. “I try and incorporate a sense of place into my work,” says Gregonis. “It's much more interesting for the guest if they can learn something about the area they're visiting.”

The resort's identity is closely tied to the themes expressed in the book A Land Remembered, by Patrick Smith, which recounts central Florida's colorful history from the time of the Civil War until the mid-20th century. Gregonis infused elements of that time in her design. “We incorporated Seminole Indian motifs like the sun motif and a butterfly motif you see in many Indian textiles. There's also a racoon pawprint being worked into our carpet design.”

The steak restaurant, named A Land Remembered, will reflect early cattle days through art on the walls and old photos of that period.

“With a project of this magnitude, we work in phases,” says Gregonis. “The first thing I do is the ceilings and lighting. The reason is, everybody has to follow that — the HVAC guy, the electrical engineers, so that they don't determine where the ductwork and all goes. Interior architecture is my forte, although I love doing the interior finishings and furnishings, too.

“I set the direction early and the rest of the time basically defend my area,” she adds. “I had to babysit my plan, not allowing ductwork run where I had specified a beautiful groin vault, which they tried to do. I have to make sure things don't get junked up. But I'm flexible; everyone has to compromise with this kind of project.”


Coming up in the June issue: Updates on finishing processes and installation, plus a countdown to opening day.


Visit www.LHonline.com for more information and related articles.

The Big Ideas

SHINGLE CREEK CONSTRUCTION FIGURES…

  • 23,450 light fixtures installed

  • 765 miles of wire pulled

  • 2.5 million lbs. of furniture and artwork

  • 3,200 tons of reinforcing steel

  • 68,500 cubic yards of concrete

  • 4,800 tons of structural steel

  • 149 acres of drywall

  • 410,000 square feet of tilt wall panel (heaviest panel weighs 189,400 pounds)

  • 17 acres of roof

  • 5.9 miles of curb

  • 1.8 miles of water piping

  • 15,900 sprinkler heads

  • 18.8 acres of parking lot

ROSEN SHINGLE CREEK

  • Scheduled Opening: Sept. 30, 2006

  • Projected Cost: $300 million

  • Owner: Rosen Hotels & Resorts

  • Architect: HHCP Architects, Inc.

  • General Contractor: Welbro Building Corp.

  • Structural Engineer: Bill Mitzo, Mitzo Engineering

  • Interior Designer, Public Spaces: Kristine Grogonis, Kristine Gegonis Associates

  • Interior Designer, Guest Spaces: Brenda Hall, Wm. B. Dodson Guestrooms/Suites: 1,500

  • Meeting Space: 250,000 square feet, including a 95,000-square-foot column-free ballroom

  • Amenities: 18-hole golf course, three pools, tennis, full-service spa and fitness center, canoeing, hiking and fishing

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