I recently was asked to write an article for High Profile Monthly on the opening of the new Inn and Conference Center at UMass Lowell – a renovation project we designed. The article follows…
Winter is usually not the best time to open a hotel and this year’s combination of snow, ice and freezing temperatures has been particularly challenging. But for UMass Lowell, the timing couldn’t have been better. On February 3rd, UML held the grand opening of the new Inn and Conference Center to celebrate the building’s conversion into the region’s first hotel/dormitory. Over 300 guests from the City and the University celebrated the renovation of the building on an otherwise cold snowy February evening.
The story behind the project is worth telling: UML purchased the former DoubleTree Hotel located in downtown Lowell in July 2009 from the Procaccianti Group, the Providence based hotel management company. For approximately $15 million, the University purchased the 252-room hotel which included a grand ballroom and meeting facilities, restaurant, and fitness center with swimming pool. Within a few weeks, the University was able to convert the upper floor guestrooms into a 400 bed dormitory, a project that would otherwise take years and many millions more to complete.
Once students were residing in the building in the fall of 2009, the University selected Arrowstreet, an architectural firm located in Somerville, MA to complete more thorough renovations of the building interiors and 31 remaining guestrooms on the first and second floors. In addition to upgrading the hotel interiors, the primary goal was to create separate entries for students and guests for security reasons.
Initially, the University planned to construct a separate student entrance pavilion with stairs and elevator to connect directly to the upper dormitory floors, avoiding student-guest interaction at the lower floors. However, it was quickly determined that this would take too long to build and would be too expensive.
Instead, the design team created a new student entry that cuts through the hotel lobby; separated by glass walls and security doors. During the school year, students come and go past the hotel lobby. The two groups can see each other but not interact, maintaining security for both. As an added advantage, after students depart in the summer, the lobby will be re-united and the entire building will function as a hotel once again.
The project was completed in two phases. In the spring of 2010, the remaining guestrooms were upgraded with new finishes and furnishings. This work was completed on a fast track basis to enable the hotel to host graduation guests. After the students left at the end of May, renovations of the building interiors began in earnest. The entrance and reception area were re-positioned; the lobby lounge was renovated; and the pool was filled and converted to meeting rooms. A new courtyard function space will be completed this spring in time for graduation.
The project team included Joslin Lesser + Associates as project managers for the University; Arrowstreet; Page Building as Phase 1 contractor; and Aberthaw Construction Company as Phase 2 contractor.
You can also view the article as it appeared in High Profile Monthly.