Marriott open house celebrates building |

Marriott open house celebrates building

The Marriott will throw out the red carpet to the public Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a community open house at the Park Avenue complex.

Visitors are invited to stroll the grounds and take part in a host of seasonal activities, including a harpist, carolers, magicians and jugglers.

About 100 community leaders and guests on Friday celebrated the public-private partnership that required much juggling and magic to make the complex a reality. They nibbled on breakfast goodies and raised champagne glasses in respect to the pinnacle of South Lake Tahoe’s redevelopment efforts.

“We received a gift of having a mountain village at the foot of the gondola,” said Heavenly Chief Operating Officer Blaise Carrig, one of the speakers who addressed the crowd. “I look at this not as an end to the project, but as the beginning of the revitalization of South Lake Tahoe.”

On Nov. 1, the $250 million project came to fruition with two alpine-style vacation resorts steps away from the Heavenly Gondola. The Marriott Grand Residence offers 199 units with quarter-, half- or whole-ownership in a condominium complex, while the Timber Lodge is a traditional week-to-week time-share hotel with 137 villas.

“We worked so long and hard to have a property in South Lake Tahoe. Bill Marriott and I are both pleased. We’re proud to be a part of the Park Avenue area,” said William Shaw, Marriott International chief operating officer.

The hotels sprang up in a 17-month span, after Marriott, “in record time,” as developer attorney Lew Feldman said, rescued the hotel once called the Grand Summit. Former Heavenly parent company American Skiing Company was too cash-strapped to build the hotel after financing the gondola, the cornerstone of redevelopment efforts.

Once the Marriott sealed the deal with the city, Perini Building Co. went into overdrive to meet the Nov. 1, 2002, deadline.

It took a lot of overtime to get the job done.

Perini Chairman Dick Rizzo was somewhat emotional at the outcome of the long hours in which crews toiled through snowy and fiery conditions.

“I hadn’t seen it for six months. And I was taken aback by the ambience of the place,” he said, as the steam rose from the hot tub outside and skiers negotiated the crowd gathered in the lobby.

There was the “monumental effort” going on behind the scenes, Feldman pointed out.

“There was doubt whether the city could take it on,” he said of the financing. With true class, he acknowledged American Skiing for building the gondola and Marriott for “saving us from the jaws of what appeared to be a major setback” when ASC ran out of money.

Mayor Judy Brown centered her thoughts on faith, tipping her hat to former Mayor Kevin Cole, who helped spearhead the drive.

Brown called the transformation of a city block of run-down buildings into an economic benefit of increased property values as the “snowball effect.”

And an estimated 625 jobs were created by the project, she cited.

And there’s more to come.

Brown added that a one-year extension of the agreement between Harrah’s and the city was granted last week to build the convention center project across the street as redevelopment plows forward.

Harrah’s has agreed to book a developer by June.

The mayor called the end result “a shining example” of economic interests coming together — a vision that started 20 years ago.

“This tireless energy is something the city should be proud of,” said Steve Weisz, Marriott Vacation Club president. “We’re so excited to have Lake Tahoe in our portfolio.”

So is Laguna Niguel attorney Diane Palumbo, who in June bought two quarter-share penthouses in the Grand Residence for $600,000 each.

“I’ve always loved Lake Tahoe. Then I heard of the project and saw the plans. And then when I saw Marriott and Vail were partners, I thought it would be a great investment for the community and my family,” she said.

And Palumbo’s staff of 50 likes the idea. One of the units at the pedestrian-friendly village will be used by the company.

“I think it’s the wave of the future,” she said.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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