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RMU conversion of hotel to dorm to cost 60 jobs

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 12:04 a.m.

Robert Morris University's conversion of a hotel into a dormitory will leave about 60 workers without jobs next week, a university spokesman said.

It also has forced some couples who planned weddings at the Holiday Inn in Moon this year or in 2014 to choose other venues.

“We certainly regret any inconvenience our decision to close the hotel has caused,” university spokesman Jonathan Potts said.

RMU on Monday will close the Holiday Inn on University Boulevard, about a mile from its campus. The university owns the building, and plans to open it as a dormitory by August, he said.

Potts said the 60 hotel employees were told in May that their jobs would end in July. Prospera Hospitality, which manages the Holiday Inn, “has made every effort to find those workers positions at other hotels they manage,” he said. Green Tree-based Prospera did not return calls.

RMU bought the 11-story hotel at a sheriff's sale in November 2011. It began leasing rooms for students in 2010, Potts said.

The hotel's conversion is occurring three years earlier than planned because of enrollment growth, the university has said. Enrollment grew almost 8 percent to 5,181 students between 2008 and 2012.

Next school year, RMU plans to house about 500 students in 250 rooms. The building will be called Yorktown Hall, Potts said.

Prospera began notifying customers in April, he said. Prospera has worked with betrothed couples and others to make arrangements at other hotels, without extra expense, Potts said.

“In some cases, depending on how quickly the event was coming up … we gave them an additional cash gift,” he said. Potts declined to disclose RMU's cost.

Kerry Orchowski, 24, of Scott and Tim Sugrue, 25, of Philadelphia booked their Nov. 30 wedding at the Holiday Inn and were shocked when they later learned it would have to be moved, Orchowski said.

The Holiday Inn helped the couple move their wedding to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel and Suites, Downtown, without any extra costs or a date change, she said. “I'm actually extremely pleased because I feel like I kind of got a better deal.”

The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh–Green Tree will accommodate four weddings that were planned for the Holiday Inn in Moon, said Verdell Ekberg, vice president of sales for CAM Hospitality, which manages the Doubletree.

The hotel recently completed a $20 million renovation, he said. “Once the brides and grooms got here and saw the transformation with the renovation, we didn't have any issues whatsoever,” he said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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