Making Progress

Workers installing new windows
in Fairfield Inn hotel project

Developers say the projected opening
now pushed back to early June

(February 2021) – More than a year ago the process began to turn the former Eagle Cotton Mill, an industrial building that was built in the 1880s on the Madison, Ind., riverfront, into a modern Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. The project is planned to be complete on June 7, according to the Fairfield Marriott website. While the casual observer on the riverfront might not think that the project has progressed much, that perception is about to change. That is because at last the new windows are now being installed.

Fairfield Inn Madison

Photo courtesy ETC Systems

New windows are going in at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, formerly the Eagle Cotton Mill on the Madson, Ind., riverfront.

The windows have always been the focal points of the building since they were designed to be extra large (5x8 feet) to let in light for the factory workers. Each room will have two of the them, albeit some through an unusual offset. But with its original 12x14-foot ceilings and exposed beams, everything about this repurposed building is unique.
Installing the windows is labor intensive. They are delivered by the manufacturer in staggered lots since there would be no place to store the 245 behemoths. Each one takes about four hours to install and to trim the inside and outsides.
Herschel Brichto, the construction supervisor, is intimately involved with the project. Brichto grew up in Cincinnati and now has a farm in nearby Switzerland County, Ind. He has worked on many historical restoration projects, but this $21 million renovation is the largest.
According to Brichto, “The biggest challenge in this project has been fitting modern mechanics into an old structure without hurting its structural integrity or its historical significance. Case in point is installing an elevator that goes through four floors. Also, camouflaging the mechanicals (plumbing, electric, heat and air) has been a challenge, since our goal has been to keep the original old mill look as much as possible.”
As of late January, the windows in the rear of the building were almost in, and the work on the front was set to begin soon after.
Of course, the most important question that everyone wants to know is when is the hotel going to be ready to open? The project manager, Dave Titus, smiles when he hears that asked, for he has heard the question many times before.

Fairfield Inn madison

Photo courtesy of ETC Systems

Workers are receiving the 245 5x8-foot windows in multiple shipments, then installing them into the building.

“We were shooting for the beginning of May, but of course then the pandemic hit. All it takes is for one person in a crew to get it and then the whole crew is shut down for a week or two. Right now, we are probably six weeks behind.”
“When the weather breaks, the front landscaping will begin,” says Titus. “I think people are really going to like the new look. And our courtyard in the back of the building is going to be something special.”
Project manager Ron Bateman appeared before the Madison Historic District Board of Review to request that a stainless steel roof-like covering be allowed to be constructed over the front entrance arrival area, similar to what exists at many other Fairfield Inns. Bateman assured the board that it would be designed to fit in with the look of the former textile mill turned hotel. The board approved the request.
As one looks around the site, it is nice to see all the contractors’ trucks around with familiar names on them. The community is not only going to get a distinctive addition to its riverfront, but from the very beginning it is benefiting monetarily from this restoration.
Dora Hospitality LLC in Fishers, Ind., is among the team of developers working on the project. Dora Hospitality officials have been interviewing for senior staff at the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center in recent weeks and by late January had hired a general manager, according to Tawana Thomas, executive director of VisitMadison Inc. She has been working with the management team on a marketing plan once the hotel is open. They are now hiring a sales team as they prepare to open in the coming months.

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