Fewer Plants, More Functionality are the New Laws of the Jungle for Hotel Atriums

May 22, 2018


It’s been estimated that there’s 400 to 500 atrium-style hotels across the country, many of which are being mandated by the major flags to remodel due to their dated design and its high cost to maintain live plants. Unlike a standard PIP, however, atriums present a unique challenge since atriums are not unlike a kitchen in a home — everybody and everything goes thru it. Contractors must be highly skilled and experienced to take on this project, especially if the hotel is planning to remain occupied during the renovations.


“Renovating an atrium is a disruptive, complex process owing to the heavy foliage, large rocks and multiple ponds, so it comes as little surprise that many owners are tempted to flatten everything to create one flat space: said Sam Cicero, Jr., president of Cicero’s Development Corp. “The trouble is that flattening out a space so expansive results in a courtyard space that is aesthetically boring to guests. However, for a little additional money, a hotel owner can get productive use out of the renovated atrium space with more functionality, different seating areas, breakfast and bar areas, as well as zones that can be rented out to groups or for weddings. Owners who take this route get a better return on their investment in the end.”


Cicero’s is currently in the midst of such a project. It is renovating an 18,000 sq-ft atrium-style hotel in the Minneapolis area that was originally built in 1986. The atrium project includes total renovation of the complementary breakfast and bar area, the back of the house, staff offices, the fitness center, meeting rooms, public bathrooms and the pool. Much more than paint, carpet and vinyl, this multi-million dollar project encompasses the hotel’s “behind the walls” infrastructure being completely redone, with new HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems installed. The overarching goal was to modernize the atrium from being an aging jungle to a sleek, modern and highly functional space where guests can seek solitude in a private corner or join others for business or pleasure in the open public seating or at the inviting restaurant/bar.


Timing is everything in a project this complex, says Cicero: “Our sequence of work was determined by what elements of the atrium project would take the longest. Because the atrium with its bar and breakfast area were the most intricate, we built a timeline starting there and then putting the other pieces into place so that the hotel would have some type of amenities during the long renovation process.”


Another key in a project like this, explained Cicero, was having access to all the professionals. “What’s making this project so successful is that I can reach the designers, the engineers or the architects or the FFE people. I don’t have to go through a chain of demand or wait the standard 3 to 5 days. If I need answers I can just pick up the phone. It’s been a great team approach and nothing adversarial.”


Thankfully, the hotel has been able to stay open so it is bringing in needed cashflow for operations due to Cicero’s extensive, detailed planning. At one point the hotel had no atrium, pool, fitness center or ballroom. However, this was during a season that was typically slow so business did not suffer. 


Another issue was labor: There is a very robust labor pool and well skilled labor market in the Minneapolis area. Cicero’s did not have trouble finding qualified contractors to bid the work, resulting in a superior renovation. Most of the contractors on the project were local with the exception of the tile and carpet team brought in from out of town. 


For more information about your next office renovation, contact Cicero’s Development Corp. at www.cicerosdev.com.






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Cicero's Development Corporation

10038 Clow Creek Drive, Suite A

Plainfield, IL 60585

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(630) 904-7063 - Fax



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