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  Best Estimate Challenge Runner Up:
The Westin Book Cadillac Hotel Restoration
by Marous Brothers Construction And Jenkins Construction

By Lynn Murray

The Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Mich. was constructed in 1924 and cost $14 million to build. It was the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world at that time.

From Ruins to Riches
There are projects that present challenges, and then, there are CHALLENGING projects.

The Westin Book Cadillac Hotel and Condominiums in Detroit, Mich., is a definite contender for the latter. It’s also the runner-up in Design Cost Data™’s Best Project Estimate Challenge for the joint work of Marous Brothers Construction of Willoughby, Ohio, and Jenkins Construction Inc. of Detroit.

Built in 1924 as a flagship hotel for the “Fifth Avenue of the West,” the Book Cadillac Hotel was a symbol of opulence and prestige. It cost $14 million to build and contained 1,136 guest rooms, making it the tallest building in Detroit and the tallest hotel in the world.

The hotel, which has hosted presidents, executives, athletes and royalty, operated successfully until the Great Depression. It changed ownership several times through the years, purchased by hotel chains and developers, and was owned briefly by the City of Detroit, which kept the hotel open despite declining profitability.

In 1986, the property was shuttered for the next 20 years, falling victim to time, the elements, and vandalism. An effort to revitalize the structure began in 2003 but was abandoned several months later when the developer realized the extent of damage.

In 2006, the Cleveland, Ohio-based Ferchill Group announced plans to renovate the Book Cadillac into a Westin Hotel and Condominiums. Marous Brothers Construction was called in to offer a fresh approach to value engineering and cost control.

The estimating team began with little to go on: a few conceptual layouts, a set of design drawings from a previous failed attempt and the Westin Hotel construction standards. For a year, Marous Brothers Construction worked in weekly design meetings with Jenkins Construction to evaluate the most appropriate and cost-efficient methods and technologies. Their estimators walked the building, performing on-site analysis, and developed a creative budget that incorporated schedule compression and cost-savings through work performed by the company’s Carpentry and Interior Finishes Division.

The once opulent hotel had fallen into despair and had been shuttered since 1986 when in 2006 the Cleveland, Ohio-based Ferchill Group announced plans to renovate the hotel into a Westin Hotel and Condominiums.

The challenges were extensive. Ballrooms were rebuilt from scratch, using original drawings, historic photos and plaster casts of decayed details. More than 60 percent of the millwork material cost was applied to rebuilding the once-heralded Fourth Floor, and 25 percent of carpenter’s hours for the project were allocated to installing more than 2,000 new windows.

“As the building was being cleared out through demolition, construction was ongoing both above and below on floors which had previously been demo’d,” said John Herold, Field Operations Manager, Marous Brothers Construction, and lead superintendent on the project. “This involved constant coordination, continual updates to various floor schedules and clear communication with subcontractors.”

Marous Brothers Construction and Jenkins Construction worked together to complete the $200 million project in October 2008. The project completed on time, included ballrooms rebuilt from scratch using the original drawings and historic photos along with the installation of over 2,000 new windows.

Marous Brothers Construction recommended and implemented several design features that not only improved the hotel but also resulted in cost-savings to the developer. Bathroom exhaust was filtered so that the heat could be saved using Energy Recovery Units, and energy-efficient kitchen hoods also provided a quick return-on-investment.

“We were especially sensitive to challenges regarding budget, schedule and quality, focusing our efforts to find proactive solutions to project challenges. Ideas for cost efficiency, constructability, durability, reduced maintenance and operational cost, construction labor reductions and other features were developed as a team and implemented into the project,” said Herold.

The $200 million project was completed in October 2008 and today serves as a catalyst for development in Detroit.

“Despite being four months behind before they ever started to work on the project, the Marous Brothers/Jenkins team never waivered on meeting the date for opening the hotel on time,” said Kevin W. Weigand, Project Manager, The Ferchill Group.

“For me, the Book-Cadillac was my project of a lifetime,” said Herold.


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