The Courtyard Marriott in Phenix City, with its sweeping view of the Chattahoochee River and the Columbus cityscape, is close to having its roof "topped out" for the final push toward an early August opening.
"I had somebody come up to my office, two people, in the last two months at our corporate office wanting to book rooms at the Courtyard. They wanted to be the first ones to stay at that hotel," said Matt Patel, vice president and operations at RAM Hotels, the Columbus-based company building the 99-room property at a cost of $12 million.
While some future wedding events already are being scheduled for the hotel's meeting space, the ability to book a guest room at the new hotel should come in the next two months, he said, when it is put on Marriott's online reservation site in anticipation of its summer debut. The current date for opening is Aug. 8.
Dothan, Ala.-based general contractor Hollis & Spann began construction on the property last spring. Work has progressed steadily since then, with crews toiling away through this winter's cold snaps.
Assistant superintendent of construction Mike Casper said once the roof is completed, which will keep rain out of the interior, the pace should quicken. There are now about 30 workers on site now, he said, a number that should double as tradesmen tackle inside wiring, plumbing, walls, flooring and wood trim.
The flow of work should proceed from the fourth floor to the bottom.
"Everything finishes from the top going down," Casper said. "That way when we go out the door on the bottom, everything is done."
Construction will proceed until the final "punch lists" are filled out by RAM Hotels, Marriott and Hollis & Spann itself. Those lists will be filled with items that need to be finished or repaired before final approval is given that the property is ready to go.
Patel said he looking forward to the finished product, which he thinks will be impressive, in part, by its general location.
"It is just beautiful. I don't think you'll find a hotel room with a view like this," he said of the Courtyard's back portion, which faces east toward Columbus and the river.
Meanwhile, the main entrance and rooms on the west side of the hotel will face Phenix City, with property across the street including a lot where a city parking garage will be built, a pawn store and Phenix Plaza, a shopping center that owner, W.C. Bradley Co., plans to renovate.
Another major piece of the overall downtown Phenix City development is just to the north of the Courtyard Marriott -- the new Troy University building that is starting to rise from the ground.
Work on the 44,000-square-foot structure -- which is the first of two phases of the downtown Phenix City campus -- began last fall. Steel girders are now being put in place by Montgomery, Ala.-based Bear Brothers Construction, the general contractor.
The four-story structure is expected to be finished by February of next year, with Troy University planning to begin classes there by summer 2015.
Inside the building will be the Sorrell College of Business and the College of Health and Human Services. David White, vice chancellor of Troy's Phenix City campus, said several "centers of excellence" also are planned. The first ones will be the Center for Water Resource Economics and the Center for Risk Management and Insurance.
For RAM Hotels, the Courtyard Marriott is the latest piece of a burgeoning company that only looks to get bigger, said Patel. It already has eight properties in and around Columbus. That includes a recent partnership in the Wyndham Garden in north Columbus, while the firm also is working to close its purchase of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Phenix City.
Patel said RAM Hotels is also finalizing plans to construct a Courtyard Marriott in Auburn, Ala., off Interstate 85's Exit 51. Another Courtyard is planned for Montgomery, Ala., as well. Those will be simultaneous projects, he said, with ground-breakings for both in June or July.
The company, which opened a Home2 Suites by Hilton in the Bradley Park Drive area of Columbus in 2012, is also planning two more hotels with that brand. Feasibility studies are still being done, although they will be in north Georgia and west-central Alabama, Patel said.
"In the next five to 10 years, we would like to have at least 15 to 20 properties," he said.