Inn’s renovation faces unexpected expenses
By Madeline Zeiss, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012
As the Hanover Inn undergoes changes to modernize its facilities, the renovations and construction that prompted the Inn’s Dec. 5 closure have progressed according to schedule, according to Hanover Inn manager Joseph Mellia. During the course of the renovations — which were originally projected to cost $21.5 million — the total cost of the project has risen to $41 million, according to Director of Media Relations for the College Justin Anderson.
The Inn is projected to open on June 1, in time for Commencement, according to Mellia.
The increased costs, which exceed the projected cost of $21.5 million by $19.5 million, include “costs associated with correcting existing building code,” as well as changes that are “more significant than expected” to the building’s infrastructure, Anderson said. A new sprinkler system and updates to plumbing, heating and cooling systems have also contributed to the increase in the project’s cost.
“In essence, all of these things were more extensive and/or costly than initially expected,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the College believes the full cost of the renovations can be funded by proceeds from the issuance of 30-year bonds, revenues from the Inn, proceeds from the 2010 sale of the Minary Conference Center and other investments.
A new bus shelter will also be constructed on Wheelock St. near the Inn, according to Mellia. The Town of Hanover, assorted federal agencies and the College will undertake the project, which will function as a more expansive shelter and information point, Mellia said.
Members of the Inn’s staff continue to operate as “close to normal as possible” with a major renovation taking place at the hotel, Mellia said. While operational teams plan for the hotel’s re-opening and train staff members, sales and catering teams continue to book “off-premise” catering events and prepare new programs that will take place in the Inn’s new meeting and conference center.
The Inn’s reservations staff has started assisting guests with securing reservations for the June opening and recommending local area hotels for guests with immediate needs, Mellia said.
Representatives from Engelberth Construction, the firm hired to complete the renovations, have worked to keep construction “on track,” Mellia said. The process has been facilitated by recent warm weather.
Because the renovations are internal, the outside facade of the Inn will be “totally preserved,” making construction more difficult and confined, Anderson said.
Great effort has been made to preserve the Inn’s exterior, as it functions as a historic symbol of the College, according to Anderson.
“The Inn is really the public face of Dartmouth, and it is the first thing so many visitors to Dartmouth and to Hanover see,” Anderson said. “It needed major renovations to fix the interior and also to modernize and update it and maintain the Inn as a business and to reflect the success of Dartmouth.”
Dartmouth began a process of exploring options for implementing physical, financial and professional improvements needed at the Inn in 2009, Anderson said.
Once fully completed, the Inn will feature a state-of-the-art ballroom and conference center able to accommodate groups of between five and 300 individuals, according to Mellia.
The expanded meeting space should attract a greater variety of visitors to the Inn, promoting Hanover and the College as centers of activity for conferences and academic events, Anderson said.
Since the Inn’s closing, Six South Street Hotel — located two blocks south of the Inn — has experienced a significant increase in customers, according to general manager Don Bruce.
Most recently, the hotel housed class and club alumni officers over Winter Carnival weekend and will host members of the Board of Trustees in the coming weeks.
Simon Pearce manager Mike Vermeulen said business has doubled since Simon Pearce moved from its retail location in the Inn to 15 South Main St. in anticipation of construction last June. Simon Pearce will remain in its new space even after the Inn reopens, largely due to increased space for merchandise in the new location, Vermeulen said.