After a decade of dreams, Hyatt Place is first of D'Ambra's City Centre projects

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Michael D’Ambra’s dream to transform the site of his construction offices and asphalt plant into a hub of office buildings, hotel and retail uses dates back to 2008. He moved ahead with planning and zoning board approvals and sought out possible investors and tenants, but as he pointed out Wednesday, the economy at the time took a nosedive. Nothing happened.

Now, however, D’Ambra’s dreams appear to be on the fast track. At the official opening of the state’s first Hyatt Place, D’Ambra announced the 125-room hotel set the record for the fastest construction of a Hyatt hotel with it taking 13 months from the groundbreaking to its opening. On average, said Glenn Ahlborg, vice president of Ahlborg Construction Corp., it takes 16 months.

There was more to getting the project off the ground than a dedicated construction team.

Addressing an assembly that included the governor and state and city officials and most importantly his mother, Sue, who he attributed with making everything possible for the family, D’Ambra also singled out the people at Hyatt who stuck it out with him and city and state tax incentives. The hotel is one of 33 state projects granted incentives introduced by Governor Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly. D’Ambra is also taking advantage of the city Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) that uses the pre-construction property assessment for tax purposes, implementing the new valuation over ten years.

“They really got this project going,” D’Ambra said of the incentives.

It was a perfect opening for Raimondo.

“There were so many projects bottled up and stuck ten yards from the finish line,” she said, underscoring her efforts to bring development and new jobs to the state.

She noted that Green Airport can be directly accessed from the Hyatt via the neighboring car rental garage and interlink and now offers twice the number of direct destination flights than it did when she took office. Additionally, she said the state’s unemployment is now at 4.4 percent and that the state has the highest number of jobs – more than 500,000 – in decades.

“It’s all about creating good jobs for Rhode Islanders,” she said.

Mayor Joseph Solomon, who as a councilman voted on the zone changes for D’Ambra’s master plan as well as the TSA, noted that the Hyatt is the 17th Warwick hotel. He called it a vital component to the vision of a vibrant City Centre Warwick of mixed uses.

“It’s the momentum for additional development,” he said.

Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island Commerce Corp. director, looked at the Hyatt development as playing a role in extending the trend of more jobs and development. He termed the state’s economic growth as “very healthy” and the best of the states in the Northeast.

As for the jobs created by the $17 million that went into site work and the building, Ahlborg said the project required 15,000 man labor days. By no means is the hotel a cookie cutter of other Hyatts, either. David DeQuattro, managing principal with RGB Architects, architects on the job, said Hyatt revised materials and color schemes throughout construction in adjustment with brand schemes. Ahlborg, he said, rolled with the changes, enabling the project to be completed for the Hyatt record.

“You’ve got to be able to adjust and keep things moving,” said Ahlborg.

Ahlborg said the key to completing the job was to have the structure up and the roof on by last September, thereby allowing crews to work on the interior during the winter months.

Listening to D’Ambra, it was more than weather and timing that brought everything together. Apart from tax incentives, the cooperative efforts of the city building department, financing, the efforts of the Waterford Group that will oversee hotel operations, which he mentioned, D’Ambra talked of how people worked as a team.

Speaking specifically of Ahlborg, he said when it came to a problem, “instead of throwing their hands up, they rolled up their sleeves and got the job done.”

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