DES MOINES, Iowa – The Weitz Company turned over the 330-room Hilton Des Moines Downtown to Polk County on Wednesday, ending Des Moines’ 10-plus-year wait for a new convention center hotel.
The milestone was celebrated with a public ribbon cutting early in the day followed by a grand opening event in the evening.
“We are immensely proud to bring this much anticipated facility to the Des Moines community,” said Mike Tousley, executive vice president and general manager of The Weitz Company. “It’s an impressive hotel with first-class features and amenities. Our project team and trade partners need to be commended for ushering this project to reality.”
Reaching this pinnacle did not come without its challenges. But in early 2015, a pivotal meeting between The Weitz Company, Polk County and City of Des Moines produced the framework for a uniquely innovative financial solution that would send the $101 million project on its rightful path.
A public-private partnership was formed. Weitz would lease land and borrow funds to serve as the developer as well as the design-builder. Polk County and the City of Des Moines established the non-profit Iowa Events Center Hotel Corp. to create a lease-purchase agreement for the hotel property after construction completed. Hilton Hotels & Resorts became the final piece of the puzzle when selected to manage and operate the four-star facility.
Originally planned for completion on March 31, delivering the new Hilton Des Moines Downtown 10 days ahead of schedule is noteworthy but it is not what made The Weitz Company’s construction of the hotel significant. It was innovation and the extreme amount of prefabrication Weitz utilized to build the 322,000-square-foot facility that has gained notoriety.
Sparked by the idea of prefabricating 300 of the 330 bathrooms, Weitz implemented a purpose-built approach to save time, reduce construction waste and improve safety and quality. This created a series of modular build strategies that local subcontractors such as The Waldinger Corporation and Baker Electric embraced to complement the bathrooms, which were manufactured by Pivotek at an off-site facility in West Chester, Ohio.
“It boiled down to creating a Lean workflow that would positively shape the construction experience for project stakeholders,” said The Weitz Company Project Manager Ben Bunge. “There were 12 modular building components on this project, but it all revolved around the prefabricated bathrooms. They were the focal point of the entire strategy because they represented the path most integrated and critical to the project’s tower schedule.”
Bunge tracked the impact the modular build components had on the Hilton Des Moines Downtown. The more compelling outcomes: Diverting 15 tons of trash from the jobsite to create safer and cleaner working conditions, reducing labor hours to construct and install the prefabricated bathrooms by 11 percent and eliminating 17 weeks of construction waste from the project schedule by installing the 300 prefabricated bathrooms in just three weeks.
There is no denying, though, the most valued benefit of prefabricating on this project was enabling Hilton to welcome its first guest on the same day The Weitz Company turned over the building.
“Our goal since starting construction two years ago was aimed at ensuring the hotel’s doors could be opened to guests as early as possible,” Tousley said. “After waiting more than a decade, Polk County and Des Moines deserved to experience this moment sooner rather than later.”