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Old becoming new again

Bocce ball courts require a perfectly level playing field — and that's one of the biggest challenges facing Miles Construction as it transforms the old Siena Hotel into a Marriott Renaissance flag.

The building overlooking the Truckee River on Lake Street opened in 1956 as the Holiday Reno hotel, and after closing in 1998 it was reopened and rebranded as the Siena in 2001. The building has got old bones, to say the least.

Miles Construction is tasked with turning the aged property into a four-star non-gaming hotel, which is no small feat, says Jeremme McGilvray, manager of adaptive reuse for the Miles Construction team. Take the bocce venue with its perfectly level bocce ball courts, which are 60-feet long by 10-feet wide. They're being built atop a concrete floor that doubles as the basement ceiling. McGilvray says the floor is as much as 2.5 inches out of level from one end to the other.

"I had no clue what bocce even was when we started," McGilvray says. "But they have to be perfectly level, like a giant pool table. In the construction industry, a perfectly level floor is almost impossible — there has to be some sort of tolerance."

Construction crews will grind the floor down to rough it up, then cover it with a coat of epoxy before pouring self-leveling concrete atop it. After that, crews will grind it again to make a perfectly flat finish and then top it with the bocce ball surfacing.

It's one of many unique tasks the team from Miles has to overcome to upgrade the property. Miles is working with A.C.E. Architects, Inc. of Reno, as well as interior design firms Bunnyfish Studios of Las Vegas and Jill Savini Design of San Francisco. The developer is Fernando Leal, who helmed the transformation of the Flamingo into the Montage condominium project and the old Fitzgerald's hotel into CommRow (now Whitney Peak).

Miles has between 30 and 50 employees working on the site, and over the duration of the $15 million job expects to employ as many as 175 to 200 different tradesmen at the site. The Marriott Renaissance is expected to open in spring of 2017.

Bringing an aged building up to four-star standards is much more difficult than building a new hotel from scratch, McGilvray says. There are only 155 Marriott Renaissance flags worldwide, though Marriott has more than 4,000 properties in 60 countries.

"They have very exacting requirements that lend themselves to new construction and not a remodel," he says. "Our biggest task is getting the existing facility to meet Marriott standards."

McGilvray says work started long before construction crews ever removed the first nail on site. The Miles team and the architectural and design firms spent months coming up with a game plan for the property.

"We had to try and figure out how we would fit as much style and class into simple box rooms," he says.

And no amount of planning could truly prepare Miles for what it found once it began demolition. McGilvray says crews found things built to plan, and additional construction that never made it onto renovation plans over the long years of the building's lifespan.

"What you'll find when you start opening things up you really don't know," he says.

Starting from the beginning, you open up some areas and start to do some exploratory work to see if what we want to accomplish will fit.

"You have to find ways the electrical can be run, and there were actual structural members, plumbing and HVAC inside the walls that no one knew was there — we had to do a complete redesign. We had to find areas to make the plan actually work and had to work with designers to find a place for items without completely blowing out the budget."

Construction constraints at the site also pose a host of challenges — such as the inability to set up a crane to fly in structural steel or similar large materials. The curbing for the bocce ball courts — 62-foot-long glulams — had to be brought in by hand using a network of dollies. And the structural steel for the new ballroom space also had to be moved in manually. Crews removed some interior walls and brought them in through the old casino floor before hoisting them up to a second-story balcony and into the new ballroom space.

Cary Richardson, vice president of business operations for Miles Construction, says the various challenges of the Marriott transformation dovetail with his team's expertise.

"If you just want to build a big box and put racks in it, a lot of guys can do that — but if you have got a complicated process or an adaptive reuse project and need to have people come up with creative means and methods, we are the guys to call," Richardson says.