Hill International’s portfolio of overcoming challenges and successfully delivering iconic projects for the hospitality and leisure industry globally, is once again in hand with work due to complete soon on the St. Regis Astana and The Residences project in Kazakhstan. To be operated by the Starwood Hotels and Resorts and owned by Turion, the hotel is being built on a prime location, replacing a renowned restaurant that was owned by one of the shareholder’s family with deep cultural connections to the country. The site had hosted many of the major economic discussions and summits held by the new Kazakh government in the 1990s and is today on its way to be a 120-key hotel with restaurants, signature spa and winter garden, to name a few. Put simply, when completed – ahead of the start of Expo 2017 in Astana this summer – St. Regis will be a pioneering hotel, business, retail and residential project in the capital city that will ‘simply be the best’ in every respect and the ‘first of its kind’. Also, the 50 St. Regis-branded residences, that is part of the major development, will complete the offer along with a significant volume of commercial, retail and office space. “The St. Regis Astana is the flagship project for MG Development (Development Managers). Our primary vision was to create a development, which exceeded expectations in every respect,” commented Erdal Seyhan, CEO at MG Development. “Starting with the location: we found the ultimate site which allows clients and guests to be in the centre of Astana – adjacent to the diplomatic and business areas as well as government offices - and at the same time in an eco-friendly, secure and private environment.”
No efforts were spared for the project to meet the highest global standards, with MG Development reaching out to top-tier international names and leaders in their respective fields to secure all key roles. This included: Hill International to project manage the development; Arup as the lead engineers; WATG/Wimberly for the architecture and interior design; Starwood as the operator; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius covering all legal aspects. “Our brief to all the parties was to create the most memorable experience for our clients in Central Asia, setting new standards of excellence for the region,” Seyhan noted. The project site is a prominent location on the banks of the River Ishim, in the Central Park area of downtown Astana, with WATG and Wimberly Interiors starting on the project in 2013 with a brief that covered integrated services - architecture, landscape and interiors. Whilst the building takes it lead from many of the great residences in Paris, New York and other notable capital cities, it has its own Astana cultural identity too. Because it is situated within a city park, restricting the height of the building was a particular consideration and echoes New York’s Central Park, where the buildings similarly line the borders of the parkland.
Hill International’s role
“Although the project benchmarks some of the legendary hospitality properties worldwide, it presented unique and challenging construction features which made the development unlike anything contemplated in other capital cities,” said Jose Manuel Albaladejo, Project Executive and SVP of Strategic Clients and Operations Re-engineering of Hill International. The project was developed to the highest international standards with many innovative features – such as the cooling, heating and humidity control systems – that were rare or even unique in the local market. This necessitated augmenting nearly every aspect of the project with selected companies, suppliers and contractors capable of fulfilling these specialist requirements. The temperature differentials of some 70°C experienced in Astana throughout the year could potentially have a significant impact on both systems and quality, Albaladejo said. Local knowledge was of the utmost importance, along with a thorough, well-planned process, in achieving the finest finishes and building performance that would withstand these extremes. The client is committed to attaining BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) certification and pioneering those standards in Kazakhstan through a long-term commitment to environmental sustainability. Reducing, and even eliminating, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions was a ground-breaking aspect of the project in such demanding weather conditions. A BREEAM certification is granted to a project that reaches a certain level of sustainability qualifications.
The project entailed procuring equipment, materials and finishes from around the world, pushing resourcing practices to highly demanding limits. From as far apart as Europe and Far East, and anywhere in between, materials and equipment were brought in to achieve the desired bespoke experience throughout. To achieve the goal of transforming the vision into a reality, Hill International had to tailor a team that was capable of operating at the highest standards and with the necessary experience to ensure the successfully delivery of this pioneering project. This involved managing more than 30 direct consultants and contractors, working as one multi-disciplinary team. “The success story of this project was taking a vision, balancing the expertise required locally and internationally, and making it all work together holistically,” Albaladejo said.
Hill International’s success over the coming few months in handing over the St. Regis hotel and residences will come in the backdrop of two other iconic hotel projects – the six-star Grand Hyatt and Steigenberger hotels in Brazil and Germany – the company completed last year. The achievements will once again be put to use as Hill prepares to mobilize for another iconic hotel project in Asia-Pacific.
By Ashok Dutta