As construction workers moved through the mud at East College and North Main Streets Friday, it was hard to tell from the outside that the Hotel at Oberlin was open.
But inside was another story. In the lobby, hotel and restaurant staff dealt with guests and took reservations.
The hotel’s grand opening is during Oberlin College’s commencement weekend next week when the 70-room hotel is expected to be full, said Erica Todhunter, hotel general manager.
She said staff have been preparing about a month but were still working out the kinks Friday. About 40 have been hired and Todhunter said about 30 more will be added in the next few months.
The hotel will replace the Oberlin Inn. The 40-room hotel, which opened in 1955, closes Monday, said Rex Engle, inn general manager.
He said 10 to 14 inn employees have been offered jobs at the hotel. “We’re going to have some very well-known, familiar faces from the inn mixed with some newer faces,” Todhunter said.
The 105,000-square-foot hotel and conference center is part of the college’s $38 million Gateway Center project.
Construction began in 2014 and the project goal was energy efficiency. The hotel to is one of five to receive a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Commission. Rating factors include energy performance, indoor environmental quality, use of sustainable buildings materials, and water efficiency.
It is the only hotel in the U.S. using radiant cooling and heating, meaning it relies on water rather than air for cooling and heating, said Christopher Noble, a consultant for Smart Hotels, the project developer.
Cold and hot water comes from 48 wells, each 405 feet deep, and circulates through metal ceiling panels.
The lobby includes wood from a dismantled farmhouse and wooden furniture made by local Amish carpenters. A sculpture by Athens-born artist Maya Lin, whose most famous work is the Vietnam War Memorial, will be erected in the lobby next year. Large glass windows in the lobby maximize natural light.
The hotel restaurant is named 1833, commemorating the year Oberlin and the college were founded. It has about 25 workers and and about 20 menu items each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, said Jim Barnhart, restaurant executive chef.
About 75 percent of the food served is grown locally. “The closer you can get your food, the better it’s going to taste and the fresher it’s going to be,” Barnhart said.
Hiring local and using local food is part of the hotel and restaurant’s commitment to Oberlin and Lorain County, said Barnhart, a Carlisle Township resident and Todhunter of Oberlin. “We’re in the people business and what’s super important is serving the local community,” she said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune The 70-room Hotel at Oberlin opened Friday. It replaces the Oberlin Inn and is part of the $38 million Gateway Center hotel and conference project at East College and North Main Streets.