ITHACA, N.Y. — Mark Lane didn’t mince words when asked if Ithaca’s Marriott Hotel was a challenging project.

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“Logistically, the small size of the site has been the hardest, it’s like a postage stamp. We’ve had to do a lot of off-site storage about a mile away at Ben Weitsman’s scrap yard, and trucking things over to the hotel. But with the crane, close proximity to the other buildings, just getting everything there, from dumpsters to concrete pumps and forklifts, it’s been very difficult, probably one of the most difficult we’ve worked with given the size and area.”

Lane serves as president of William H. Lane Incorporated, the general contractor for the 10-story, $32 million downtown hotel project. Lane Inc. is based out of Binghamton, and opened a temporary office in Ithaca in October 2014.  The firm plans to upgrade that to a permanent office somewhere in the city.

“Being that we’re doing the Marriott, a lot of opportunities have presented themselves. We just picked up the 201 College Avenue project, so we’re working feverishly on that. We’ve made a few calls, and that’s our mission, to hang a shingle here and tell people we’re open for business,” said Lane.

The Marriott has been a long-incubating project, with multiple iterations over the past decade. The project was first proposed in 2008 as the 102-room “Hotel Ithaca” to be developed by Rimland Development and operated by boutique firm Gemstone Hotels. At that time, the current Hotel Ithaca was still a Holiday Inn.

Then the project’s path began to meander. The hotel was approved, but the recession hit, and the project stalled due to an inability to get financing, while the cost kept going up from $17 million to $25 million to $27 million, and the number of rooms went from 102 to 125 to 140.

Then the Marriott version came into play in 2012 with a $19 million price tag, it was approved, but it too failed to get financing, and went back to the planning board with a value-engineered design for the now $32 million project, designed by Cooper Carry Architecture and developed by Urgo Hotels. That was approved, and is the version that’s under construction now.

“They had gone through a series of plans, but it was our first crack at the project. There were 3 or 4 bids at the beginning, they narrowed it down to two, and they made a selection for us to proceed and they had us go ahead with the pre-construction and then the construction phase. We think they felt a sense of trust and honesty with us, we helped them get the costs in line with their budget. That took about eight or nine months,” said Lane.

In contrast to the often-delayed plans, Lane described the project schedule for the Marriott as “fast and furious” from here on out. A topping off ceremony for the hotel will be held next Wednesday, the culmination of sixteen months of construction. In this case, topping out refers to the last piece of the structural concrete to be placed, the mechanical penthouse roof.

At this time, about 80 to 100 workers are on-site daily, with more ready to set foot on the property as the roof is completed and tradesmen come in to work on various sub-projects – electrical, plumbing, HVAC, drywall and other major steps of the build-out process. Meanwhile, brick cladding and Nichiha (NEE-chee-ha) fiber cement panels will be attached to the outside walls. According to the Ithaca Times, the hotel is aiming for an opening of August 23rd.

The project has had its share of problems. While doing foundation work, a caisson rig broke, tilted and hit the parapet wall of the Green Street Garage. Lane said the issue’s been taken care of, and that apart from the rig accident, things have gone very well. The company has been monitoring buildings neighboring the construction site using seismic radar.

Even with the complexity of the Marriott construction, Lane and his construction team are glad to have made their way into the local construction market. “We have a presence, we have the resources and relationships here now, we’re getting familiar with architects and planning boards and real estate agents. Now that we’re out there, we have the people, and we feel there’s a tremendous amount of work in the Ithaca market, we want to continue to be a part of that.”

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Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.