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Hilton sneak preview Credit: Andrew Dierkes , Andrew Dierkes

A new addition has secured its place in the University City skyline.

Homewood Suites, owned by Hilton Hotels and Resorts, will have a soft opening May 1 with operations fully open to the public. An official grand opening with formal tours will take place early August.

The hotel, located at 4109 Walnut St., broke ground in December 2010. Construction is now nearly complete — finishing landscaping touches are being made, as well as amendments to light fixtures, outlets, and stocking of sheets, coffee makers and glassware.

The 11-story building was specifically designed for guests who plan to stay for longer periods of time. It houses 136 suites with bedrooms and kitchenettes. Guests are provided with complimentary breakfast, evening reception and Wi-Fi. The dining room seats about 50. Other amenities include a fitness center, an indoor pool and hot tub and a sweet shop in the main lobby that will serve snacks, milk and frozen dinners.

“There will be more than what you would see in a normal shop in a hotel since guests have refrigerators in their rooms to prepare food,” Campus Apartments Senior Director of Investments Jonathan Chopp said.

A video-conference room that seats 44 people resides on the first floor of the building and will be available to outside groups to rent. Two executive centers will also act as meeting rooms and include computers and printers.

At 110,000 square feet, the building is LEED-certified and includes a green roof, low flow fixtures and an energy management system. Guests remove their cards from a slot by the door upon departure in order to automatically shut off the room’s electricity. Tablets by the bed enable guests to turn off the lights in the room, call the car valet, set an alarm clock and find the five-day weather forecast.

Chopp estimated that a few hundred temporary construction jobs and 30 permanent jobs have been created for the project.

But for some, the construction has been a source of nuisance.

College senior Zoé Plantevin has lived on South 41st Street in a house located in front of the hotel since spring of last year. The construction period has not been easy for her and her housemates due to early morning noises, disruption of wireless internet and being forced to relocate when the crane was assembled and dissembled.

Although Campus Apartments paid for their rooms in the Sheraton and gave them gift cards for meals as compensation, “it was still a hassle having to move out of our home.”

One of Plantevin’s housemates, Engineering junior Brett Wittmershaus, said they had to fight hard for Campus Apartments to compensate them. “Originally they weren’t at all until we made it clear that it was not okay to abuse us like that just because we are college students,” he said.

“The biggest qualm I had with the situation was the tactlessness Campus Apartments had,” Wittmershaus said. “We were not informed there was going to be so much commotion around our house and may not have resigned the lease because of it, so we were stuck there for at least this year. We think they probably knew they wouldn’t be able to get others to live there knowing it’d be in the middle of the construction.”

However, Wittmershaus believes that the hotel will be a convenient place for his parents to stay since it’s close to his house, and it “might make the area a bit nicer if it brings in other businesses westward.”

When the project was initially announced in Dec. 2007, the hotel was to be built on 40th and Pine streets. But after public outcry that the project did not fit the area’s landscape, plans were made to move the project to Walnut in Oct. 2009.

Homewood Suites Assistant Director of Sales Jonathan Esten said, “I don’t think there’s any opposition to us being [on Walnut].”

Barry Grossbach, chair of the Spruce Hill Community Association Zoning Committee, agreed. The association is a volunteer group of residents in the Spruce Hill community that meets regularly to improve quality of life in the area.

“I think people just accept that given the size of the structure, this was a logical place for it to be built.”

Chopp said the project is being well-received by the community since “one of the things they were looking for was putting it in a commercial area and busier road, which this is. Everybody seems pretty pleased.”

Campus Apartments also plans to tear down two buildings on the pedestrian walkway of the hotel, Chopp added.

A 150,000 square-foot office building will also be erected on the property, according to a press release.


GALLERY: Homewood Suites on Walnut Street

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