Keeping the doors open during exterior updates

During most interior renovations, hotels are able to hide rough patches inside and keep guests away from areas under construction. This is not true of work that must be done on the exterior of the hotel, where improvements can help in the long run, but can be disruptive to business during the process.

The Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, N.J., recently completed major renovations that included repairs to its façade and entranceway from damage caused by last year’s Hurricane Sandy. Updates were planned to replace marble flooring and doors that suffered water damage, while improvements were made to the hotel, such as a larger revolving door at the entrance and a repositioning of the hotel’s escalators in the lobby. Terry Dunbar, GM of the property, said the update was planned for six months ago but was held for a period of lower occupancy.

“Timing is everything,” Dunbar said. “Visually, construction on the front of your hotel is disruptive, but there was also a week of continuous jackhammering. There is never a good time for that, but you have to pick a moment with the least impact.”

Sam J. Cicero, founder of general contractor Cicero’s Development Corp., said the biggest challenge for hotel façade construction takes place when a hotel has only one main entrance. Often a hotel will have a ballroom or side entrance for meeting facilities, but a property that Cicero’s company recently began work on, the Wyndham Houston Medical Center, has but one.

“In situations like that, you have to get creative with drapes and cordoning off areas at the right time,” Cicero said. “You take on half of the entrance at a time and work on as much of the façade as possible.”

Cicero also said the most successful renovations take place when the hotel and construction company work together to understand each other’s needs. “We need to know what the occupancy is for different days and times of day,” Cicero said. “Talk to the hotel staff, because they know the dynamics of a property. If there is a renovation, sometimes people won’t book, so you need to know the details of a hotel’s business and how to make the experience as pleasant as possible.”