25 Years of MGAC: Hospitality Work

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MGAC was founded in 1996 with three goals: to do the most interesting and challenging work, to have fun working together, and to build a successful business in the process. Twenty-five years later, we have met these goals and more. At this milestone moment, we thought it would be fun to look back at some of our most memorable projects—our favorite missions made real. Today, join us as we revisit the evolution of our hotels and resorts projects.

Humble Beginnings

In the early years, MGAC had the right mix of talent to be successful in the hospitality market. Our staff included (and still includes) multi-year veterans of the Marriott Architecture and Construction Department and former contractors with hotel experience. So, breaking into the hospitality market made sense, and in 2001, we were fortunate enough to be invited to an “industry day” by a major hotel owner.

We walked in, sat down with our coffees, and waited for the meeting to begin. The executive hosting the meeting welcomed everyone and invited us—as the first group in alphabetical order among hospitality project managers, architects, and hotel contractors—to present our qualifications. Given the lack of agenda prior to the meeting, and certainly unaware of an expected presentation component to the day, we had absolutely nothing prepared. Our best efforts at thinking on our feet fell flat, and barely a minute later, the hotel executive said, “Wow, you guys obviously have no hotel experience. How did you make it into this room?”

We have certainly come a long way from this meeting but enjoy reflecting on this story as it is emblematic of our firm’s enterprising spirit. Getting to where you want to be starts with putting yourself out there and taking on new challenges, and we have done that successfully in the hospitality space every year since. Since that “industry day,” MGAC has managed over $2.6B in hospitality projects throughout the United States, Canada, and the Middle East. We have delivered over 24,000 keys for brands including Ritz Carlton, W, JW Marriott, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Westin, as well as other independent brands.

Taking Things Up A Notch

After that absolutely humbling meeting, we hit the ground running and, once again, did not back down from the challenges in front of us. Our earliest hospitality projects were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, just when everyone prognosticated that no one would ever travel by air again, and hotels were a dying industry (sound familiar?). This early work included smaller renovations of meeting spaces, restaurants, lobbies, and eventually guestrooms. MGAC’s geographic reach lead the very same company that hosted that early “industry day” meeting to begin utilizing our services for two major renovations of over 1,300 rooms in the Pacific Northwest. Soon, we became one of only two or three firms undertaking these projects nationally for our client.

Game Changers

Those smaller projects progressively grew into larger work and, in 2006, our very first hospitality client referred us to the Salamander Resort and Spa. The aspiration was simple but demanding: to create a unique five-star sustainable country estate of uncompromising quality that fosters healthy lifestyles for its guests and the Middleburg community alike. Meeting that goal required navigating quite a few unique challenges, and two previous project management firms were unable to get the project off the ground. The residents of Middleburg, Virginia are environmentally conscious people who are proud and protective of the rural lands they call home. As such, the project faced community opposition and numerous zoning and entitlement challenges. Our team participated in over 25 public and private hearings and ultimately was successful in winning town annexation of the property from Loudoun County. Where others had failed, we overcame the hurdles and delivered, and the project has continued to be an enormous success.

The completion of Salamander led to major renovation projects throughout the Caribbean, including the renovation of the Renaissance Jaragua Hotel and Casino in the Dominican Republic. The complex $60M urban redevelopment project faced language and cultural barriers, and a lack of codified processes for development projects. MGAC team members became experts in Dominican regulations and entitlement procedures. Forming relationships and performing due diligence, the team was able to identify a local construction team that had the experience and resources needed to complete a project of this size. The renovated hotel now reflects luxurious new brand standards for Renaissance and will serve locals and guests for generations to come.

The relationships we formed on Salamander, Jaragua, and many other projects have carried through to today in our hospitality practice. The financial firms we worked with on those projects have grown and now work with MGAC’s hospitality team on projects throughout the country. Our client base has diversified and now consists of private investment firms, REITs, management companies, and developers.

Looking Ahead

From the Bulgari Resort and Marina in Dubai to multiple projects in Grand Cayman and the Caribbean, to our more recent work such as the high-rise development of the 5th and Stewart Luma Hotel and Residences in Downtown Seattle, our hospitality team has had the opportunity to work on a wide range of exciting projects. We have grown quite a bit from those “How did you make it into this room?” days and, today, are honored to be the go-to team for some of the world’s most interesting and complex hospitality projects. There are always new challenges on the horizon in hospitality, and we are still just as eager to meet those as we were on day one.

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Katie Rubino

Katie is a Senior Communications Manager at MGAC, leading the Marketing Team in efforts related to social media and public relations.

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