Looking good: Downtown's heartbreak hotel is finally shaping up

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As an introduction to a great city goes, Pittsburgh as seen by a visitor emerging from the Fort Pitt Tunnel is hard to beat. One moment drivers are confined by the dim interior of a tunnel and the next moment they burst upon a grand vista, more beautiful for being unexpected.

But for the last few years that pleasure to the eye was immediately spoiled by an eyesore -- a hotel made ugly by unfinished construction. It was as if the handsome face of Pittsburgh had a wart for all to see. It looked so bad that during the summit of G-20 nations in 2009 a welcome banner was put up on the building, but less for welcoming and more to hide civic shame behind a veil.

Look again, visitors and residents. It's Heartbreak Hotel no more. The old Hilton, which went into bankruptcy and was bought by Kiran C. Patel in 2011, is now the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown -- and the exterior at long last does look grand. It's taken five and a half years, but the job is nearly done.

Tom Hemer, the Wyndham's director of sales and marketing, told the Post-Gazette's Mark Belko this week that, while the new management would have liked to have done the work sooner, "we're taking the opportunity to do it right." The hotel is extending the 20,000-square-foot project to include part of the lobby, the L-shaped conference center next to it and a gift shop at the rear of the building. The renovations include an upscale bar and lounge to be built in the lobby near the meeting space and a new patio area. All the work is expected to be done by March.

As long-time critics of the scaffolding to nowhere, we are now pleased to say: Thank you, Mr. Patel. It's finally looking good.



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