It has been a very long time in coming for Stephen Berry: 2,067 days from the time a building permit was issued in 2007 to when the temporary occupancy permit was awarded this month.
That's five years, seven months and 28 days -- or 2,976,480 minutes -- to complete perhaps one of the longest running construction projects in the city's history: the modest 20,000-square-foot addition to the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown hotel, formerly known as the Hilton when the project began.
But then again, who's counting?
"I'm very happy. It's been a long road to hoe," Mr. Berry, the project architect, said as he took photographs of the mostly finished product and checked for any problems that needed to be fixed.
Nearly six years after it started, the construction -- a two-story structure at the front of the hotel on Commonwealth Place facing Point State Park -- is drawing to a close.
The Wyndham already has christened the addition's new "junior" ballroom -- some 220 feet from end to end -- and expects to have a new 27-foot by 14-foot swimming pool and spa filled and open to guests in 10 days or so.
"We're just excited to have it done," said Tom Hemer, director of sales and marketing for the Wyndham. "With all due respect, we're tired of talking about how long it's been."
For several years, that's about all anyone talked about. The project has been plagued by work stoppages due to unpaid bills, a bankruptcy and an ownership change. For a long time, half-completed, rust-colored steel framing greeted visitors at the city's doorstep. That metal work was deemed to be such an eyesore that it was covered up for the 2009 G-20 economic summit.
"I was telling everybody while all that steel was out there, you might be surprised how it turns out," Mr. Berry said.
The new ballroom space on the mezzanine level overlooks Point State Park and features a roof that swoops up as high as 30 feet with floor-to-ceiling glass. It also contains a state-of-the-art audio-visual system and drapes and lighting that can be controlled with an iPad.
"There hasn't been a sour comment yet," Mr. Hemer said.
He added that the space can be used for one large gathering or divided into as many as five smaller spaces for meetings. The Wyndham also has installed new carpeting throughout the mezzanine to complement the new space and an existing ballroom, the city's largest with space for as many as 1,650 people.
Taking guests to the ballrooms from the lobby is a new T-shaped grand staircase, replacing one removed after the construction started. With no staircase for several years, hotel guests had to take elevators to get to the mezzanine level. A couple of times, the elevators malfunctioned, forcing guests to take back stairwells to the mezzanine.
Mr. Hemer said the new ballroom will be in use on 22 of the next 30 days. The Insurance Club of Pittsburgh will be first up later this week. The hotel itself, Mr. Hemer said, is about to enter its busiest 30-day stretch since 2002 with conventions, events and individual reservations.
But just as you can check out but never leave the Hotel California, the Wyndham's modest addition has been close to being finished for months, but never quite done.
While the bulk of the new space has been completed and is open for business, another 4,000 to 5,000 square feet of meeting space on the first floor won't be open until the end of June or early July. A fence still surrounds that work, blocking part of the sidewalk and entry into the hotel.
Mr. Hemer said its completion, originally expected in March, was delayed when the hotel decided against moving a lobby bar and had to make changes to the furniture and decor.
For now, the hotel is happy to celebrate what has been finished in an addition that has taken longer to build than PNC Park, Heinz Field and the light rail extension to the North Shore.
"It's been emotional for a lot of people, customers as well," Mr. Hemer said. "We're just excited to have it done because, not only is it pretty to look at, but it's functional so we're able to better serve our guests."
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262. First Published April 25, 2013 4:00 AM