CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The $15 million renovation of the former Charleston House on Kanawha Boulevard is in full swing.
The hotel has been sectioned off into work and non-work zones and remains open for business. New elevators have already been installed, and the Recovery Sports Grill, a family-oriented sports restaurant, opened in October.
Meanwhile, construction of an indoor pool is about to begin, and the two top floors have been gutted to make way for condominiums.
"We've got a really good start," said Keith McClanahan, senior vice president of BBL Carlton, the general contractor. "We're in high gear. We do have a long way to go."
BBL Hospitality purchased the hotel in September 2011 for about $5 million and immediately announced plans to renovate the 12-story structure, which overlooks Haddad Riverfront Park and the Kanawha River.
When BBL Hospitality took ownership, the Windows on the River restaurant on the top floor had been closed for several years and the hotel had switched from a Holiday Inn affiliation to a Ramada Inn.
Carrie Hillenbrandt, BBL Hospitality's corporate director of sales, said on Wednesday that the hotel will remain a Ramada until renovations are complete.
"The hotel will then become a Four Points by Sheraton," she said.
Hillenbrandt described a Four Points by Sheraton as "a full-service mini-Sheraton." The refurbished hotel will have 176 rooms, which is slightly smaller than a typical Sheraton, she explained.
Four Points is one of nine brands owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (The others are St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, W, Westin, Le Meridien, Sheraton, Aloft and Element).
The hotel here will be Starwood's first in West Virginia, Hillenbrandt said.
Hotels bearing the Four Points by Sheraton brand must have an indoor pool, so BBL Hospitality will build one on the first floor, on the east side of the building, behind the elevators.
Sheraton has specific standards for everything from furnishings to flooring. Two mock rooms have been constructed so attention can be paid to the smallest detail. One example: Each room will be equipped with a 42-inch Panasonic flat-screen television, but the TV won't sit on the desk. Instead it will be mounted on the wall, in a special frame, to provide a more finished look and to give guests more useable desk space.
Each room entryway has a laminated hardwood floor that is followed by multi-colored carpet tiles. A soiled tile can be easily replaced. All of the bedding is new and the linen is upgraded. An elegant chrome lamp graces the desk. There are lots of earth tones. The walls will be adorned with local art, Hillenbrandt said.
The heating and cooling system in each room is equipped with heat and motion sensors. If a room's thermostat is set at 70 degrees, the system kicks on when motion is detected and the room is brought to 70 degrees, McClanahan said. The system shuts down if no motion is detected after a specified period.