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Work, park, live: Inside Cincinnati’s parking garage turned lifestyle hotel

The Summit hotel and conference center is a converted parking garage that was once a factory.

July 09, 2018 |
Work, park, live: Inside Cincinnati’s parking garage turned lifestyle hotel

The Summit, a 426,000-sf hotel in Cincinnati, is the first to be designed from scratch by its owner-operator, Dolce Hotel and Resorts by Wyndham. Its nine-story atrium, surrounded by glass elevators, allowed the Building Team to redistribute the building’s weight loads and give the hotel more height. Photo: Mike Howard Photography

It doesn’t look like much from the outside. But as they say, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. 

And more interesting design flashes take over inside The Summit, A Dolce Hotel, featuring a 5,743-sf art gallery and an 11,600-sf rooftop terrace and garden space, which leads into a 4,750-sf ballroom that’s one of 19 meeting and banquet areas. 

This 426,000-sf, 239-key lifestyle hotel and conference center, which opened adjacent to downtown Cincinnati on April 17, is the first hotel that Dolce Hotel and Resorts by Wyndham designed from scratch. On top of that, it’s an adaptive reuse of a parking garage that itself was once a warehouse-distribution facility.

“I think it is easily the top hotel/conference center combination in southwest Ohio,” says Chris Hopper, Executive Vice President and General Manager for Skanska Ohio, the project’s GC. RBM Development was the developer, Samach + Seo Architecture the design architect, CR Architecture & Design the AOR, and Hirsch Bednar Associates the interior designer.

Transforming a 50-plus-year-old structure into an $80 million hospitality venue, however, was not a foregone conclusion. The warehouse portion, once a NuTone factory, had been built in two stages, 1959 and 1976, and the city had no structural drawings for the 1959 work, which required the hotel’s Building Team to spend more than $100,000 on soil and load tests. Holes had to be drilled into the building’s columns to see how much steel they contained. 


The hotel’s restaurant, bar, and conference and meeting rooms are all located on its roof terrace, which includes 19 meeting spaces with 34,000 sf. Photo: Mike Howard Photography


Seth Barnhard, Principal and program manager for Sitement, the owner’s rep, says there were “prolonged discussions” about whether just to tear down the parking garage and build new. “It took months of VE [value engineering] to get the cost down to where [reconstruction] made sense.” 

On the plus side, the existing building offered an 85,000-sf floorplate. And the parking garage had already been stripped of its cladding to the concrete, so the Building Team pretty much knew what it was working with.

The demolition part of this job took around four months, during which Skanska cut through the structure to create the hotel’s atrium space, which was probably the most important design decision on this project.

The nine-story atrium—a first for a Dolce-branded hotel—was one of three design options that Samach + Seo presented for this project, says Raphael Samach, AIA, Partner with the New York-based firm. The atrium was selected, he explains, because it allowed the structural loads to be redistributed while giving the hotel its greatest height.

Dolce is marketing The Summit as a “lifestyle” hotel, and Barnhard says its design is meant to convey an “ongoing sense of surprise” for guests who enter through a porte cochere that leads into an art-adorned lobby—whose grey palette is flecked with color accents—and portal to the atrium with four glass elevators. 


Photo: Mike Howard Photography


The terrace on the roof of the hotel’s 200-slot, two-level parking deck is programmed as a destination and “oasis” for guests and visitors, says Samach. The hotel’s restaurant, bar, conference and meeting rooms are all located on the roof.  Servicing the meeting rooms are nourishment “hubs,” which offer a variety of snacks and refreshments during most of the day. (The hotel has two beehives on the roof to make its own honey, and this spring intended to plant its own herb garden.)

However, Skanska still needed to install micro piles in the basement to fortify the existing building that’s supported by an unusual mixture of spread piles and piers, says Jon Budde, Skanska’s project manager.

RMB is an acronym for Red Bank Madison, a development company owned by August Troendle, CEO and Founder of Medpace, a clinical research organization. Next to The Summit, Medpace just started construction on a 250,000-sf headquarters building. The entire complex, which sites on 30 acres, will include 250 multifamily residential units, a walking path, and possibly a Food Hall.


Photo: Mike Howard Photography


Photo: Mike Howard Photography


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