Rich Lutz is experiencing anticipation akin to being the father of an infant who has yet to take its first steps.
As director of engineering for the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort since 1997, he has been responsible for overseeing a $320 million renovation and expansion project there that began in 2015 and will be completed in mid-June.
“It feels awesome,” was his description of knowing the finish line is near. “It’s like with a baby. You’re just sitting there waiting for it to walk.”
The project’s three-phase will culminate in:
- A total of 810 guestrooms and suites spread across three towers, up from 726 rooms in two towers, with existing rooms enhanced and expanded
- 100,000 square feet of meeting and event space, up from 57,000 square feet
- Re-imagined restaurants
- A new beachfront tiki bar
- The all-new, adult-exclusive Lanai Tower with 94 guest rooms and suites, a rooftop restaurant, pool and bar, and a 12,000-square-foot indoor entertainment zone
- The Lanai Tower is the final piece of the puzzle for a project that enabled the former Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club and Spa to ascend to the more upscale JW Marriott brand 16 months ago.
At the end of last month, the tower’s meeting space opened. Occupying the first three floors, it features two ballrooms, five outdoor terraces and multiple rooms for small meetings. The meeting area is highlighted by the third-floor’s 30,000-square-foot Calusa Grand Ballroom, which is joined by the 17,000 square-foot Banyan Ballroom on the first floor.
The fifth floor’s new restaurant, 10K Alley, will be a combination gastro-pub and state-of-the-art gaming emporium.
Lutz’s role in the project has been to act as support person.
“The renovation is being done by the Austin and Gilbane Companies,” he said. “We have weekly and sometimes daily meetings with them to see how it’s progressing, and if there are any questions or items that we can help them with. I oversee it because I’m going to own it when it’s done, so I want to make sure that I understand it and that we’re getting the quality that we’re expecting. We’re working hand in hand to do that.”
As the engineering director, Lutz is responsible for caring for the entirety of the sprawling resort’s facilities. It’s a job and a location that suit the Pittsburgh-area native ‘to a T.’
“I love this building and I don’t have any aspirations to go anywhere else,” he said. “I love Marco Island. I love our ownership. I love the JW brand. It’s constant learning for us. I learn every day and that keeps things nice and fresh. If you keep implementing new ideas, you can develop more, and that’s what I do.”
After beginning his career with the Marriott International as an assistant laundry mechanic at the Orlando World Center Marriott, he eventually rose to a supervisory position. Lutz came to the Marco Marriott in 1987 as the assistant chief engineer, a job he held until 1990, when he was promoted to chief engineer. He became engineering director at the Biscayne Bay Marriott in Miami in 1993, before assuming that same post at the Marco resort in 1997.
Returning to the island was his goal.
“I’ve loved Marco since I set foot on it in 1987,” said the member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for the last five years. “So I got to fulfill my goal and raise my family where I wanted to be.”
Lutz family consists of his wife Shelley and four adult children, two of whom still live in the area.
He cites the people he encounters at the resort as a major plus.
“Every day is different and you meet the best people from all over the world,” Lutz said. “I don’t have a ‘9-to5 job.’ I don’t have a ‘7:00-3:30 job.’ I have a job where I can enjoy coming in when I need to, until I go home. You don’t see those kinds of jobs too often.”