Redesign Improves Sales
Construction Revitalizes New Orleans Marriott Spaces
Even the most elegant grand dame needs a makeover once in a while to remain in style. The New Orleans Marriott, unlike many other downtown hotels, survived Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed. But the hotel’s 1980s lobby, with heavy ironwork and rectangular spaces on several split levels, had begun to look dated. In October, The McDonnel Group lifted the drop cloths from a top-to-bottom renovation that entirely transformed the lobby, giving it a sophisticated, airy look that is re-energizing the hotel’s business.
New Orleans may be known for its mellow attitude and laid-back pace, but there was nothing relaxed about this renovation. The project involved gutting the entire lobby and rebuilding everything between the new marble and porcelain floors and the soaring radius ceilings (rounded ceiling recesses). The McDonnel Group also constructed a new restaurant, bar, coffee shop, and retail stores using high-end and largely custom-built materials. The $6-million project had to be finished during the hotel’s brief off-season — a period of four and a half months.
The secret was airtight scheduling and communication. The McDonnel Group’s supervisors had a scheduled meeting each day with every individual subcontractor to make sure they were in the right place at the right time. “We had crews working seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day,” said The McDonnel Group Project Superintendent Todd Pierce. “At any given time, we had 150 people working in 26,000 square feet. We had people finishing drywall and painting, and 10 feet over, folks were laying the marble and porcelain floors.”
The new lobby includes coffered ceilings with large chandeliers, including three made of antique red glass. The floor at the entry to the new restaurant is marble set in a falling block pattern. Seven radius pods made of mahogany with granite countertops replaced the old, 30-footlong concierge and bell desk. Each pod was individually handcrafted.
The New Orleans Marriott has 41 floors, 1,275 rooms, 54 suites, and a concierge level. Public spaces include 47 meeting rooms, 80,000 square feet of meeting space, a ballroom, and a fitness center. The McDonnel Group began the $9 million hotel redesign project in March 2006. The landmark French Quarter hotel is located near attractions in the Quarter and central business district. Hotel rooms feature views of the downtown skyline and the Mississippi River.
Overhead are dozens of radius ceilings in different sizes. To complete the ceilings, The McDonnel Group built the radiuses out of metal studs in The McDonnel Group’s warehouse and then installed them in 10-foot sections. In that way, crews could complete demolition and reconstruction work on the lobby at the same time that the painstaking work of creating the ceilings went on. The warehouse also provided a more accessible work area.
“You’re working off a flat area instead of a ceiling,” Pierce said. “In an open warehouse, you’re able to lay it all out on the floor.” The McDonnel Group used a grid system to place the sections onto the ceiling, completing in two weeks what normally would have taken six to eight weeks. The McDonnel Group also was responsible for completely updating the hotel’s main ballroom, the largest in New Orleans. In 60 days, The McDonnel Group’s crews and subcontractors changed 30,000 square feet of ceiling tile, 2,500 linear feet of wallpaper, 2,000 linear feet of molding, and 30,000 square feet of carpet.
The lobby renovations also included the creation of a new lobby bar and a restaurant, 5-Fifty-5, named for the hotel’s location at 555 Canal Street. The new establishments are stylish and visually stunning, Pierce said. The restaurant includes a feature wall of zebra wood and laminate, with colored glass in a checkerboard pattern.
The Marriott’s 5-Fifty-5 is one of the few places in New Orleans that is doing much better now than before Hurricane Katrina. “They have tripled their business,” Pierce said of the new restaurant. “Instead of going out to Bourbon Street for dinner, people are saying, ‘This is cool. We’re going to dine here.’”