Marriott puts finishing touches on mega-complex |

Marriott puts finishing touches on mega-complex

Come Friday, two top-notch Marriott time-share hotels — a decadelong massive effort between the private and public sectors — will be unveiled.

With a grand opening celebration scheduled later and the streams of visitors already touring the grounds to sneak a peak of the Alpine-style complex, opening day for the Marriott Grand Residence Club and Timber Lodge may seem uneventful.

The South Lake Tahoe Park Avenue Redevelopment Project — though unfinished in the retail segment, city parking garage and transit center — was built off Highway 50 on sweat and care.

It has even weathered snowstorms dumping on the top floors, small structure fires and a close call to its neighborhood last July when a careless smoker threw out a butt under the Heavenly Gondola.

A flurry of negotiation occurred long before then.

The $250 million project was saved when Marriott Vacation Club — an arm of the international hotel giant — agreed to take over the development rights about a year and a half ago from a cash-strapped American Skiing Company. Heavenly Ski Resort’s parent company at the time banked on building the Grand Summit but began to run behind schedule as it became apparent its financial situation stood in the way.

When Marriott took over, the city — which counted on the project’s changing the face of the Stateline area –sighed in relief and Perini Construction Company went to work.

Hiring an army of subcontractors and covering utility-trailer walls with artist renderings, Perini soon got back on track by creating a hard-hat city.

The builder has stayed on the fast track ever since.

Grand Residence Project Superintendent Dave Ashe said Friday that he won’t rest until he gets the final nod of approval from Marriott. He hopes to finish up as early as Tuesday.

The Las Vegas man has spent months going up and down stairs, walking the grounds, communicating with crews on cell phones and missing a few nights’ sleep. He’s probably logged multiple marathons on the site.

“We’re trying to hurry up and get finished so they can get in here,” Ashe said, pointing out the remaining touches. “They’re stringent on cleanliness.”

The pressure is enormous.

Marriott workers on Friday were busy lining up the multiple accents covering the hotels such as lamps and ceramic bears — carefully selected to complement an Alpine decor of various hues of green, beige, brown and maroon.

In one of the suites on the top floor, the hot tub was already cranked up on the patio with a backyard view of the Heavenly ridge line.

The condominium complex, with its 199 units, offers quarter-to-whole ownership packages with hotel amenities steps away from the base of the South Shore ski resort’s gondola. The extras include a heated swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and weight room. Units, ranging from $125,000 to $650,000, are more than 80 percent sold according to the Florida office.

Over three-quarters of the owners hail from California.

A tunnel that housekeeping personnel may use connects the two hotels, situated a stone’s throw away from each other on both sides of the gondola station.

“This is it right here,” Marriott’s South Shore marketing director Jan Vandermade said, while swinging open the Timber Lodge’s lobby doors facing the gondola.

Having Vandermade selling the dream of time-share units just steps away from his former employer seems only fitting in a town where it’s difficult for workers to avoid overlapping their careers with the past. He made the move from ASC when Marriott took over the entire hotel project.

The traditional time-share, located on the east side of the gondola, offers 137 villas at prices from $11,500 to $42,900 per week depending on type of unit and the season.

“It’s a different sales process. Before we presented them with floor plans. Now we can show units, and they get a sense of the quality,” he said from the sales center which opened in mid-August.

And sell they do.

Now accompanying the gas fireplaces, microwaves, refrigerators and dishwashers installed in each unit, special touches like wine glasses, teapots and picture frames were placed in the rooms as inviting highlights.

“When skiers start showing up and go through this experience, I’ll think about how much energy has been expended on this project,” Vandermade said.

Design Workshop, the landscape architectural firm on the project, expects to soon receive the light fixtures and benches anticipated to blend with a lineup of ash and red-oak trees and surround the courtyards and sidewalks that are thawed by a state-of-the-art heating system.

The idea of the urban feature is to provide a safe avenue for walkers and shoppers this winter.

Retailers and restaurants including Patagonia, Wolfgang Puck Express and Quiznos will start to open over the next two months in the 38 spaces available for lease.

To enhance the pedestrian-village environment, the city’s parking garage is due to open next spring. A nominal fee will be charged to motorists looking to park in the proposed 420 spaces on four levels.

Until then, visitors are expected to park at the Crescent V Shopping Center — which will eventually enforce a two-hour limit on parking.

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

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