From the Register... I can't visualize this building, but I am all for an old building being put to good use. The foriegners downtown will probably lead to some really neat stuff setting up shop down there. I would not be surprised if unique ethnic restaraunts pop up downtown to feed some of these foriegn workers. I think that area will also be a prime redevelopemnt area when the bring back broad project is completed.
Former orphanage to house foreign hotel workers
Old Protestant Orphans Home on Dauphin Street to be renovated as dorm for Battle House, Riverview employees Sunday, February 18, 2007By KATHY JUMPERReal Estate Editor
Aformer orphanage at 911 Dauphin St., will soon be home to foreign workers employed at the Battle House Hotel and Riverview Plaza Hotel on Royal Street downtown, according to developers and hotel officials.
Investors have a contract to buy the circa 1843 former Protestant Orphans Home on Dauphin and Broad streets, according to Ray Hix, a local attorney and one of the buyers. The sale should close this week, he said.
The building will be renovated to house at least 60 workers in a dormitory-style set up, he said. He and his business partner, Haymes Snedecker, have a contract to lease the housing to Point Clear Hotels & Resorts, which manages the Battle House, Riverview Plaza Hotel and Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear.
PCH is an affiliate of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which owns the hotels. RSA has signed with Marriott Corp. to put its four-star Renaissance brand on the 250-room Battle House and 375-room Riverview.
PCH has struggled to find enough locals to staff the 250-room Battle House Hotel, which opens for guests on May 1, according to Keith Schmitt, vice president of human resources for PCH.
In fact, the manager of the 405-room Grand Hotel recruited workers from foreign countries last year to fill positions, according to RSA.
PCH, which has hired workers from South America, Eastern Europe and Malasia or the Pacific Rim, will bring less than 100 foreign workers here during the year, with the number changing depending on the season, Schmitt said.
RSA's three hotels have a total of 1,100 rooms, and will require as many as 2,000 full, part-time and seasonal workers to run all three operations, according to RSA.
The majority of the foreign workers will start arriving in Mobile in mid-May in anticipation of the building being ready, Schmitt said.
"This building was ideal due to the location," he added.
The l22,000-square-foot, vacant building is on the National Register for Historic Places, according to Hix.
Architect Russell Washer of WHL Architecture in Fairhope designed the renovations, which will start within the next 10 days, Hix said.
The investors met with the neighbors, the Mobile Historic Development Commission, and the city's planning staff and all have been supportive, according to Hix.
The two-story, federal-style brick structure is built like a fort, said John Sledge of the Historic Development Commission. "Other than some tree damage from Hurricane Katrina, they don't have a lot of exterior work to do. It's on a beautiful lot, about 2 acres, with great trees. We're all for it."
The building will house workers for its two hospitality training programs and foreign workers in the United States on 10-month visas, according to Schmitt. The training programs include a summer work and travel plan for college students on summer break; and Trained USA, an 18-month plan for youth with a college degree or a certificate in hospitality who want to work in the hospitality industry.
PCH sends staff to each country to interview the workers face-to-face and to make sure they have a good grasp of the English language and meet the requirements to work in the hotel business, Schmitt said.
"Most of them want to come to the States and learn our management practices," he said. The workers are here on a temporary basis, and many will work in the hospitality industry when they return home, he said.
The program is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Homeland Security, he said.
The Labor Department sets a prevailing wage rate based on the area where the foreign students will be employed, with employers required to pay at least that amount, according to Schmitt. "But in every case we pay more," he said. "It's not cheap labor coming in."
The students bring a diverse population to the community, according to Schmitt.
"It's a neat blending of these cultures."