3 months and $3 million later, Duluth Radisson reopens todayClosed for nearly three months, the Radisson hotel in downtown Duluth reopens today, just in time for the city’s busy summer tourist season.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
Closed for nearly three months, the Radisson hotel in downtown Duluth reopens today, just in time for the city’s busy summer tourist season.
“We missed Memorial Day weekend, graduations, but Grandma’s Marathon will fill up the city,” said Jeff Briner, the hotel’s general manager.
After several delays, the reopening at 8 a.m. today is good news for Visit Duluth, the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
“It’ll be great to have them back on board, especially with the upcoming events for this summer,” spokesman Gene Shaw said. “That they’re back and part of the field again gives us confidence in moving forward with some of our convention groups.”
The Radisson’s Harborview hotel closed on March 13 after the hotel’s waterline under Superior Street broke, flooding the sub-
basement’s mechanical room with four feet of water, sand and dirt and knocking out power. It led to the replacement of the hotel’s heating and cooling, hot water, electrical and phone circuitry systems, most of which dated back to the hotel’s construction in the late 1960s.
The cost of repairs and new utilities is over $3 million, officials said.
The good part, said Dick Spannbauer of Viking Construction, the general contractor, is that the hotel had the opportunity to upgrade to modern technology, including instant water heaters.
Because of the lengthy closure, a top-to-bottom cleaning of the 16-story, 268-room hotel wrapped up Wednesday night as the last of the carpets in public areas were shampooed, the lobby’s marble floor stripped and repolished, and the back service areas cleaned.
“There’s a few little things to do, but we’re close to being up and running,” Briner said Wednesday afternoon. The extensive cleaning included laundering every linen in the hotel and draining and cleaning the indoor pool.
All but a dozen of the hotel’s 75 employees who were laid off back in March are back, with 10 more hired, he said.
“I’m excited to be back to work,” said James Langan, 22, a server’s assistant at the hotel’s JJ Astor restaurant. “I love my job. I meet interesting people every day, and I like my co-workers.”
That’s why he held out to return.
“I probably could have found another job somewhere else,” he said. “But they’re union here, with good benefits. They take care of us here. It’s nice.”
The returning workers were welcomed back with a bowling party recently at the Incline Station and a tasting party Wednesday afternoon to sample new items on JJ Astor’s revamped menu.
On March 13, a hired contractor was working on the hotel’s service line to the city water main when the break occurred about 8:30 p.m. Water came pouring into the sub-basement’s mechanical room, carrying in dirt and sand with it. The hotel’s power went out about 11:15 p.m.
“It was a mess. We had things floating in the hallway,” Briner said.
Guests were transferred to the Holiday Inn and Sheraton Hotel that night. Reservations and events booked at the hotel for the weeks that followed also were transferred to other Duluth hotels.
“The greatest thing that happened was the other lodging properties stepped up and helped out,” Shaw said. “It involved a lot of people working together to make it happen so our guests coming to town and our conventions didn’t skip a beat.”
After several feet of water were pumped out of the expansive sub-basement, the area was cleaned and the old mechanical systems dismantled and removed.
“Just about everything was replaced, because it was all under water,” Briner said. Water also flooded the elevator pits, requiring extensive repairs.
Getting the old equipment out and the new equipment in posed a problem. So a large hole was cut in the basement ceiling leading to the loading dock, and a crane used to move equipment in and out.
Because of delays in getting needed parts and equipment, the hotel’s reopening date kept getting pushed back. The closure came just two months after the property was listed for sale for $9.5 million. Throughout the shutdown, hotel officials insisted the hotel would reopen.
Who was responsible for the break as well as subsequent damage and lost revenue has been a point of contention. Now it’s up to the hotel’s owner, Trinity Hotel Investors LLC of New York City, the contractor hired to fix the service line, and their respective insurance companies to work out, Briner said.