Public and Private Meet in the Hallway
In San Marcos, general contractor Flintco Constructive Solutions has recently completed construction of a new $21-million Conference Center and a $50-million Embassy Suites Hotel located at I-35 and McCarty Lane in October 2008.
This project is most unusual because the two adjoining facilities were constructed for two separate owners. The city of San Marcos will own the Conference Center, and John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts, LLC will own the hotel and will lease the Conference Center from the city for a period of 20 years. Both the hotel and the Conference Center will be managed and operated by John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts, LLC, of Springfield, MO.
Under the agreements between John Q. Hammons and the city of San Marcos, John Q. Hammons contracted Flintco, Inc. to construct the hotel through a traditionally bid contract, with 70 percent of the cost of the adjoining Conference Center being paid by the city of San Marcos and 30 percent of the Conference Center cost being paid by John Q. Hammons.
Difference Is in the Paper
Daniel Oates, Flintco project manager on the Conference Center construction project, says that the project is “a bit different, because the hotel is a private project whereas the Conference Center is a public works project, so there's a dividing line through the center of the overall construction project.
“The paperwork is different between the private side and the public side of the project, with taxes on the private work and no taxes on the public half of the job. We have to keep track of who is working on the public side and who is working on the private side, and the public side has issues with wage scales, certified payrolls, etc.
“Equipment is kept separate for each project, but the crews have to be shared between the public and private jobs. Individual crews are responsible for keeping up with their own wage rates and payroll, and all the paperwork has to be kept separate. As each subcontractor is working on both projects, this means twice as much paperwork for everyone, but it's easier than having separate contractors.”
Construction began on both projects in January 2007 and continued straight through Texas' wettest summer in history. Oates says that “from the time work started in January until we topped out the hotel structure in October, we had 70 rain days, but we topped it out on schedule just like we told the owner we would.”
Interstate 35 in San Marcos is roughly on the boundary between eastern blackland prairie and Hill Country limestone. With the hotel and conference center being constructed on the east side of I-35, this meant that the soil base had to be stabilized for a good foundation. Limestone bedrock was nowhere to be found below this job site.
Because the soil was just sand and black dirt, Oates says that “when we started work, we had to clear the whole area and haul in a lot of flex base from nearby Cemex Concrete to create a workable surface so we wouldn't have to be driving and working in mud. Because of the rain, we actually had to have Champion Site Prep bring in 500 tons of white rock for the groundbreaking so that everyone would have a place to sit or stand during the ceremony. An all-weather road was also constructed in and out of the job site to prevent deliveries of rebar and other materials from being bogged down and delayed.”
The soil type also required the use of a friction pier foundation to secure the structure, with a total of 639 piers drilled to a depth of approximately 60 feet each. Piers were drilled by Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc. of Houston, which also constructed the concrete paving and sidewalks using concrete from Ingram Ready Mix, Inc. and rebar from CMC Capitol City Steel in Buda, TX.
René Backer, Flintco's project manager on the hotel construction, says that “the rain forced us to do a lot of re-sequencing of our plans to stay on schedule. Our original plan was to pour our first floor slab and then go vertical, but because of the wet dirt we went vertical first and did the concrete tower, then came back and poured the first floor.”
Unlike the concrete-based structure of the hotel, the Conference Center is a predominantly steel structure assembled by Moore Erection of San Antonio with structural steel from Trans-Tex Fabricating Co., Inc. of San Antonio. TD Industries was the A/C, mechanical and plumbing contractor, with the plumbing done by the San Antonio office and the A/C work done by crews from their Austin office.
Finishing work in the hotel interior used custom-designed wallpapers and fixtures, and interior design work was designed by Barbara Elliot Interiors of Dallas.
One of the notable features in the finish work in the hotel is the skylight, which was built and installed in the atrium by Skyview Products Inc. in November 2007. Flintco's René Backer says that “the skylight, which is about 80 feet long, was built by Skyview on the ground and then lifted into place.
“Once it was installed, we drywalled and finish painted everything up there at the top of the atrium, 10 stories high, and then lowered the scaffold while finishing one level at a time from the top down,” Backer explained. “Every four to five days we had to cycle a floor of scaffolding down to stay on schedule.”
The atrium will also include water features and extensive plantscaping, all of which will be visible from the hotel's glass-backed elevators. Exterior finish work includes lighting built and installed by Wide-Lite of San Marcos, and landscape work by the Austin office of Valley Crest Landscape Development.
The 320,000-square-foot Embassy Suites Hotel is 10 stories high and has 283 suites, including two presidential suites and two hospitality suites. Each suite is approximately 500 square feet. The hotel facilities include a fully-staffed resort-style spa complete with massage, fitness center, heated outdoor pool, heated spa, a full service restaurant, coffee shop, bar, and business center.
The 77,300-square-foot San Marcos Conference Center has 40,000 square feet of meeting space that can be configured to include a 28,000-square-foot grand ballroom with 26-foot ceilings, rivalling anything to be found in Austin or San Antonio. A 7,000-square-foot junior ballroom with a 4,000-square-foot veranda, up to 19 meeting rooms, and a kitchen and catering center will be able to accommodate a wide variety of functions.
The completed Embassy Suites Hotel and adjoining Conference Center were transferred by Flintco to John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts and the city of San Marcos on October 28, 2008, and they will be the only facilities of their kind in San Marcos.
“The city of San Marcos Conference Center and Embassy Suites Hotel are the result of a successful public-private partnership,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz. “These beautiful facilities will add immeasurably to our community. San Marcos is located in the heart of one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation. The conference center and hotel are booking events at a rapid pace and will be a popular destination for business, industry, government, and citizens from throughout the Austin-San Antonio area.
“Located one mile north of the outlet malls and not far from downtown San Marcos, these facilities will provide excellent opportunities for Texas State University-San Marcos, our business community, families celebrating special events, and conventions from across the region.”