After more than two years of construction, Westerville's Marriott Renaissance Hotel finally has a projected opening.
As construction crews put the finishing touches on the eight-story structure, Marriott's leadership announced in January the hotel is planned to open at 409 Altair Parkway in "late April" after more than 28 months of construction.
At its groundbreaking ceremony in December 2015, the hotel was dubbed the "crown jewel" of the 900-acre Westar Business Park by both city and hotel leadership.
At the time, City Manager David Collinsworth called the hotel "the spark to ignite the development" of the rest of the property.
With the hotel nearly operational, manager Scott Starek said the hotel leadership sees the facility in the same way.
"I think bigger companies are slightly hesitant to come to an area that doesn't have a hotel," Starek said.
"So where do they send their guests? Over to Polaris. Now, they're going to say, 'We have this brand new, top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art Renaissance hotel right next door to these plots of land,' " he said.
When finished, the hotel will have 222 rooms on floors two through eight, with amenities such as a restaurant, bar, indoor pool, lounge area and workout space on the first floor and 15,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and banquet space.
Starek said the remaining work is "a lot of finishing" and wrapping up "the finer details," as well as bringing in furniture and other items. He said carpeting and flooring are among the major remaining projects.
Although builders originally aimed for a March opening, a delay of one month is no concern for Starek and Marriott leadership. He said "no serious delays" or challenges have come up throughout the process.
Starek said the city is partly responsible for the ease of construction.
"The city of Westerville has been a huge advocate of the project," he said. "They've done everything they can in their power to help the process along."
As the opening date nears, the hotel will begin hiring its staff.
Starek said a small number of leadership positions have been filled, but the vast majority of the nearly 100 employees that will be on board by the time the hotel is "fully running" have yet to be hired.
He didn't want to guarantee that all of those employees will come from Westerville, but Starek said he expects the location to help drive jobs for Westerville residents.
"As far as the rest of the staff, we definitely would like to support (Westerville) if we can," he said. "I think a lot of people that might be in the service industry or hospitality that are in Westerville are going much further than they will have to if they work here. So I think we'll see a lot of applicants from the area."
Beyond hiring, Starek said the hotel hopes to engage with the community in other ways. He said leadership has already made contact with the Westerville Area Resource Ministry and other community-based organizations, and hopes to do more when more staff members are hired.
"We've already met with a couple different places," he said, noting WARM specifically. "As we start getting more staff, even pre-opening, we'll start to work with them a little more."
Another point of community outreach will be the hotel's contest to name its restaurant.
The hotel is soliciting names with "a story behind it" or historical significance for the restaurant that will be on the hotel's first floor.
Contestants can submit a name on the hotel's Facebook page at Facebook.com/RENWesterville, and the winner will receive a free night's stay along with dinner for four and an invite to the hotel's grand-opening celebration.
Starek said the restaurant will be a point of pride for the hotel, and he expects it to be better than typical hotel food.
"In the past, restaurants were looked at as an amenity for the guest; we need somewhere for the guests to eat," he said. "Now, it's the opposite. It's a restaurant in a hotel."
Starek said he expects guests to be impressed with the attention to detail of the hotel.
"I think people will really be amazed and impressed at all the very specific details throughout the hotel," he said. "For example, the ballroom isn't just a rectangle. ... It will just be a really cool environment for people to come check out and find cool things all throughout the hotel. It's not just a hotel."
For more information, visit Mariott.com.