INDIANA COUNTY: Group plans boutique hotel for landmark
April 11, 2013 11:01 AM
by RANDY WELLS
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A downtown Indiana landmark may be in line for a new lease on life.

The 93-year-old Roch-ester and Pittsburgh Coal Company building in the 600 block of Church Street may become an in-town boutique hotel through a $10.5 million renovation.

The Indiana County commissioners Wednesday agreed to submit a business plan and, upon invitation from the state, submit a full application to the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for up to $4 million for costs associated with renovating the three-story former coal company office building that is within walking distance of the downtown business district and much of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.

The R&P Building is owned by Grettler & Bruns LLC.

“This is very, very preliminary. We’re still really in the concept feasibility stage,” said Larry Segal, vice president of Wesex Corp., a design-build-development firm in West Middlesex that is coordinating the project.

Segal said his firm is working with the Choice Hotel Group on a style for the new hotel from the group’s Ascend Collection. According to Segal, the group starts with historic properties and creates a very homey atmosphere distinguished from typical hotel chains.

“It’s markedly different, with a more interesting and intimate character,” he said. “It’s quaint, very welcoming, far, far from cookie-cutter.”

The preliminary plan calls for the hotel to have 47 guest rooms, some meeting space and an area for light dining. It hasn’t been decided yet if a bar will be included.

The outside of the building will remain largely the same.

Segal said his company had to scramble to meet an April 15 deadline for the grant applications and put the project’s preliminary details together in about six weeks, so there wasn’t time to first present the plan formally to the county commissioners and the county’s tourist bureau, to Indiana Borough and IUP officials and others, as would normally have been done. He said his company still intends to meet with those groups and seek their comments now that the preliminary work has been completed in time to meet the grant application deadline.

Segal said the project likely “won’t fly” without the state grant assistance. Just updating the nearly century-old building’s electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems will probably cost $3 million to $4 million, he said.

Segal said the R&P building has 82,000 square feet of space, but only about two-thirds of the structure, or 47,000 square feet, would be renovated into a hotel. The remaining space — some of it now occupied by a fitness club — will remain as commercial space in the building.

Segal estimated it may be July before his firm receives an invitation from the state to submit a full application for the grant. If the grant is approved, the renovation construction will probably take six to eight months and the new boutique hotel might open in April 2014, he said.

Byron Stauffer, director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, told the commissioners the renovation project would add another 40 to 60 years to the life of the building that was constructed in 1920.

Stauffer said the preliminary business plan projects that the hotel will create 27 full-time and 33 part-time jobs.

Indiana County will have no obligation in the financing of the hotel, but rather will act as the “pass-through” for the state grant, if approved.

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