Going mod

By Steve Lackmeyer

The Oklahoman


Oklahoma City will see a new “cutting-edge” approach to building hotels using modular rooms built at an out-of-state factory and then delivered to the construction site in Bricktown.


Site work is already underway for the 142-room AC Hotel at 411 E Sheridan Ave. and the 134-room Hyatt Place at 20 Russell Perry Ave. being developed by NewcrestImage Hotels.


The hotels are set to open in a year. Both hotels will be built with traditional construction methods for the ground floors. But on the final four stories of the AC Hotel, 81 modular pre-built room floors will be brought into Bricktown by truck and lifted into place by a crane.


Construction of the modules started this month at Guerdon Modular Buildings in Boise, Idaho, and will begin arriving for installation in October. The project was detailed as the first of its type in Oklahoma City during a groundbreaking Wednesday.


“This will do incredible things for the timing of construction,” J.C. Witcher said. “But that's not the only reason we chose to go this way. The quality of the factory construction is extra stout, very strong, very solid. And they have to meet the standards of NewcrestImage and the hotel brand.”


Mehul Patel, CEO of NewcrestImage, previously opened the Bricktown Holiday Inn Express, 101 E Main.


“Many of the challenges that face hotel construction — finding skilled labor, maintaining quality, speed-to-market, risk mitigation — are addressed by modular construction technology,” Patel said. “For this first project, our team has been excited to work with Guerdon to harness the quick-build cycle of the modular process so that we can quickly provide Oklahoma City with AC Hotels' stylish, European-inspired accommodations.”


Officials with Guerdon said Wednesday that modular hotel construction gained popularity in recent years during the boom in the North Dakota oil fields, but added the work set to happen in Bricktown is “cutting edge” and the “exception” to traditional hotel construction.


One of the most notable uses of modular construction for hotels occurred in 1968, when San Antonio, facing a deadline to be ready for the World's Fair, saw modules lifted into place for the 21-story Hiltion Palacio del Rio Hotel. The 496 rooms were lifted into place in just 46 days. But until recently such construction was unusual for hotels and unheard of locally.


The Bricktown project marks the first attempt at modular construction by NewcrestImage, which owns and operates 19 properties, with another 12 hotels under construction or in development.


“Our goal has been to integrate closely with NewcrestImage in order to make every aspect of the construction process flawless and worry-free — everything from the design and build to mapping out the delivery and installation process,” said Lad Dawson, CEO of Guerdon. “That allows Mehul and his team to focus on what they do best, managing successful hotel construction projects to completion.”


Bill Pearcy, vice president of construction at NewcrestImage, said using the traditional building methods on the Hyatt while going modular on the AC will provide the company with a “unique” opportunity to compare costs and scheduling.


“The data we obtain will be shared with franchise representatives, design professionals, and the construction industry to help understand the most efficient method to deliver our product to the market,” Pearcy said.


When the two hotels open next year, they will be a part of a dramatic transformation of east Bricktown that includes the 4,000-person Criterion concert venue, which opened in March, a Springhill Suites, and the Steelyard, a mix of 400 apartments and 26,000 square feet of retail.


The development is being built on the site of the former, sprawling Stewart Metal Fabricators plant that stood on both sides of Sheridan Avenue between Joe Carter Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard.


“We are thrilled to have these two new properties coming to Bricktown,” said Mallory O'Neill, Bricktown district manager. “It's a phenomenal time for the east end of the district. It will be amazing to see how different this end of the district will be with the Steelyard, the new hotels and the Criterion.”