Reservation Renovation: A Five Star Construction Partner for Peachtree’s Premier Destination
The Westin Peachtree Plaza tower, designed by world-famous architect John Portman, boasts the impressive titles ‘second-tallest hotel skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere’ and ‘17th tallest hotel building in the world.’ Beginning in 2013, Balfour Beatty Construction was entrusted to perform major renovations to this defining feature of the Atlanta skyline. The transformation included elevating the quality and luxury of the hotel’s expansive lobby space, meeting rooms, guest rooms and its renowned Sun Dial Restaurant. But before you check into this iconic hotel, be sure to check out the unique challenges our team overcame to achieve the owner’s goals while maintaining the designer’s vision. From working in an occupied facility with hundreds and sometimes thousands of hotel guests in the six-floor open atrium lobby to moving materials and manpower within a dense urban footprint and erecting an innovative staging system, this multi-million dollar makeover required a five star construction partner.
In addition to upgrades to the lobby, meeting rooms and ballrooms, renovations included the build-out of a new Starbucks® and upscale bar, as well as a clad shell for a FedEx location. The lobby itself received luxurious upgrades like living walls, extensive millwork, upgraded energy-efficient lighting and the installation of a 40-foot-tall custom painting. Renowned artist, Raymond Saá, painted an enormous four-story mural to adorn the lobby area using a 95-foot lift, all while renovations were taking place around him. The meeting room renovation included all public meeting spaces, ballrooms, pre-function spaces and banquet facilities.
The scope alone rendered these renovations a monumental undertaking, and so, too, did the limited laydown area that the project’s workers had to contend with during construction. But the foremost challenge was that all work took place in an active, fully operational hotel that could not afford disruption to its clients’ activities and meetings. So as not to disturb sleeping guests, Balfour Beatty orchestrated the vast majority of construction activities during the daytime. The front desks and check-in areas were temporarily relocated during the three months it took Balfour Beatty to renovate the guest services area. This relocation required extensive communication with Westin staff, especially their marketing and communications departments, to make sure all changes, however temporary, were communicated to hotel employees, guests and visitors. Traffic management—especially the overflow stemming from the large conferences that the Westin hosts nearly every month—was a tremendous undertaking and necessitated months of pre-planning.
Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the Westin Peachtree Plaza is situated just blocks away from some of the city’s top business venues and tourist attractions, including the CNN Center, Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Dome. While the Westin Peachtree Plaza is conveniently located within the city, the site was anything but convenient from a contractor’s perspective. As with so many other urban construction projects on tight sites, the team had to get creative when it came to materials laydown areas. When possible, Balfour Beatty stored materials in the building’s parking deck, and at other times, repurposed meeting rooms that were under construction.
On a chilly Sunday morning in December 2014, the project team executed a planned shut-down of Peachtree Street, one of the city’s busiest corridors, for three hours in order for the crane company to lift four air handling units (AHU) into the hotel. Two lanes were closed, and an off-duty officer was on-site to direct traffic. The team's coordination with the mechanical contractor, City of Atlanta and the Westin resulted in a smooth and issue-free delivery of the AHUs with minimal disruptions to the community.
Seventy-three stories above Peachtree Road, the tower’s uppermost floors are home to the Sun Dial Restaurant and Bar, a revolving restaurant that offers stunning, panoramic views of the city. The three-floor renovation included a full kitchen renovation, all-new finishes throughout including carpet, painting and wall coverings, new LED lighting, banquettes, ceilings, glass railing system and a bar. With unique spaces come unique challenges, however. The team erected a custom, three-story radius scaffold deck system across the entire surface area of the restaurant to facilitate replacement of the restaurant’s ceilings. It was necessary for this scaffolding to wrap around all of the Sun Dial’s balconies, which also had to be refurbished and rebuilt. To assemble the scaffolding, the project team had to first shore up the rotating floor to ensure it was not damaged in the process.
Since its construction in 1976, the Westin Peachtree Plaza has earned not only a celebrated status among hospitality properties but also cemented its place in the hearts of Atlantans. Through these important renovations, Balfour Beatty was proud to ensure that the hotel will remain a premier destination for both business travelers and leisure tourists for decades to come.
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