Mining Exchange opening, at long last

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The long-awaited downtown Mining Exchange Hotel opens next week, on May 9.

It’s the first full-service hotel to open in the Springs in 27 years, and its upscale elegance won it the honor to be named a Wyndham Grand Hotel, one of only 30 in the world.

There’s plenty to celebrate about the hotel, even if it is opening a year later than expected, half completed and a bit shy of the magnificence its creators initially imagined.

The opening next week is a “soft-opening,” a chance to kick the tires and make sure everything will run smoothly. An official grand opening is expected in July.

The hotel, at the corner of Nevada and Pikes Peak avenues, opens with 57 guest rooms, a boardroom, a fitness center and a 3,000-square-foot ballroom that can seat 200 or host a cocktail party for 300.

The second phase of the hotel, which will feature the grandest suites and a grand ballroom, is projected to open in July.

“When you are restoring three historic buildings, there are things that come up that you could never possibly imagine,” said Erin Smith, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

The hotel, which is three separate historic buildings, is already highly anticipated: 17 couples have booked weddings at the Mining Exchange and the sales team has two-sold out weekends, one in July and one in September.

“We are hoping to change the face of lodging in Colorado Springs,” Smith said.

The last full-service hotel to open was Cheyenne Mountain Resort in 1985. When fully open, the Mining Exchange will have 117 guest rooms, including 30 junior suites and 12 grand suites.

The Mining Exchange is only the second hotel in the downtown corridor and expected to be a draw for downtown tourism.

But, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. By 2009, when Mining Exchange owner Perry Sanders approached the city about a boutique hotel, the historic buildings had been through three different ownership groups in just four years.

The property was slated to become an apartment complex. But Sanders had a dream of making it a full-service boutique hotel. He convinced the city to share the sales tax generated from the hotel until about $3 million has been generated — which could take up to 17 years. In a 2010 letter to the city, Sanders wrote that he needed the tax incentive because it was riskier to turn the building into a hotel than apartments.

Over the next two years, the project had some expensive setbacks — like when crews discovered the foundation was off kilter and had to redesign the elevator shafts.

“That set us back several months,” Smith said.

So far Sanders has spent $25 million on the project.

Sanders is an entertainment lawyer with a home in Woodland Park and a Hollywood clientele. He bought the three-building complex with a partner in 2005, but assumed full ownership shortly thereafter. Back then, he told the CSBJ that the hotel project was his first real estate project of this magnitude.

But, his vision for an upscale, boutique hotel in the heart of the city grabbed the attention of Wyndham Hotel and Resorts. The Mining Exchange is one of only 19 Wyndham Grand hotels in the U.S. and 30 worldwide.

“Fortunately for us, Wyndham approached us,” Smith said. “Wyndham afforded us the most opportunity to keep our unique history and character and charm and allow us to see Perry’s vision through to the end.”

That vision often changed throughout the process. It wasn’t unheard of for Sanders to walk into a guest room and tell the crew to start over. And, the project is scaled back — there is no rooftop swimming pool, and there is only one restaurant, not five.

“He’s very proud of how it turned out,” Smith said.

Sanders could not be reached this week for comment.

Inside the hotel this week the rooms were getting the final touches. The amenity wedge, Sander’s trademarked version of a mini bar, was being stocked with coffee, tea and wine.

The Mining Exchange Hotel has the charm — antique-styled furniture, original crown molding on its pillars and original tile in the ballroom — of its 1901 heritage. Sanders even kept the vault doors, which once secured the gold and other precious metals of those coming to Mining Exchange to do business.

But, the hotel has very modernized rooms with iHome entertainment centers and ergonomic desk chairs. The original 1901 window casings were restored, but covered with Mylar glass to keep the rooms little sound-proof havens, Smith said.

“As much as this is a historical property, people still expect high tech,” Smith said.

During employee orientation, the hotel’s 50 employees took time to learn the buildings’ history. They will be expected to talk to visitors about Winfield Scott Stratton, one of America’s richest men who made his fortune from gold, and built the three buildings Sanders now owns.

Construction crews are finishing a breezeway that connects the main lobby to the Independence building, where Springs Orleans restaurant is.

And, for those who want to be the first to get a look-see, the hotel will offer special opening rates via Facebook for $139 per night in May. Typical rates are expected to start at $219 and go beyond $300 per night.

The hotel’s grand opening celebration is scheduled for July, and Thomas Dawson, a keyboardist for Commodores and the hotel’s director of entertainment, promises a spin on the piano in the lobby.

“I think we have yet to write our history,” Smith said.