The Gateway Convention Center is nearing completion.
Christopher Noble, a consultant for Smart Hotels, the project developer, said construction is scheduled for completion by month’s end. He hopes the 70-room Hotel at Oberlin, which will replace the Oberlin Inn, will open in mid-May.
“We’re very excited about the facility,” Noble said after a Tuesday tour of the site at East College and North Main streets.
The approximately $35 million Oberlin College project needs an excavation permit to pour concrete for sidewalks and an occupancy permit for the hotel before opening. The city hasn’t issued permits because city officials say the college hasn’t provided a final site plan.
College officials say they’ve submitted multiple plans, but the city has rejected them due to a parking dispute.
The holdup is due to the city rejecting 17 proposed diagonal spaces on East College outside the 105,000-square-foot center. Spaces were removed after construction began in September of 2014.
City officials said they would hamper fire trucks’ access and water pump connections to the center violating the fire code.
The city wants a 40-foot fire lane with no parking along East College in front of the center and seven parallel spaces nearby. Noble said he’s hopeful the dispute will be resolved soon.
“There have been angled parking spaces on East College Street in front of this facility since our grandparents were traversing these streets,” he said. “We’ve got a $35 million facility here that’s ready to open for business. We’ve got to come to a point of reconciliation.”
Resolution will allow for showcasing the energy efficiency of the hotel. Noble said it will be the only hotel in the U.S. using radiant cooling and heating, meaning it relies on water rather than air for cooling and heating. Cold or hot water comes from 48 wells, each 405 feet deep, and circulates through metal ceiling panels.
Noble said it’s a thousand times more efficient to move a unit of energy through water rather than air. He also said the facility will have LED lighting and hotel key cards will automatically turn lights off when guests leave rooms.
Energy efficiency allowed the hotel to become one of five to receive a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Commission. The platinum certification is the highest ranking a building can receive. Rating factors include energy performance, indoor environmental quality, use of sustainable buildings materials and water efficiency.
Project organizers initially hoped to open in January.
Delays in construction, which involved up to 250 workers, were partially due to removal of hundreds of cubic yards of buried rubble. Noble said it was left from the tear-down of the 19th century building when the Oberlin Inn was built in 1955.
“That took us a lot of time and cost us a lot of money,” he said.
The new hotel will include a restaurant named 1833 after the year the city and college were founded. Noble said it will include the largest hotel kitchen in Lorain County.
The center will also include the college’s admission office and classrooms in addition to a convention center serving 300. The center is officially named the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center.
Lewis, who died in 2013, was the head of Progressive Corp., the Cleveland-based insurance company. His $5 million contribution in 2011 helped jump start the project.
Tour-goers Dale Lewis and Kitty Smith are retired Federal Aviation Administration employees who hold their annual FAA reunion at the Oberlin Inn. They said they were impressed with the facility and excited about it opening.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or GoodenowNews on Twitter
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune Work outside the Gateway Convention Center on April 5. The $35 million project is near completion.