The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis

With the opening of Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis—the first five-star-rated hotel in that city—earlier this year, high-end hospitality in the Twin Cities will never be the same 7/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Janice Brown

Hotel Ivy's Lounge features Tannoy's high-performance in-ceiling CMS8 TDC loudspeakers

A premium sound environment, Hotel Ivy's Lounge features Tannoy's high-performance in-ceiling CMS8 TDC loudspeakers. Photo: Overdog Art

With the opening of Hotel Ivy in downtown Minneapolis — the first five-star-rated hotel in that city — earlier this year, high-end hospitality in the Twin Cities will never be the same.

Bearing the signature “Luxury Collection” brand from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the Hotel Ivy complex incorporates the historic Ivy Tower, a 10-story uniquely ziggurat-style building established in 1930 and once listed among the city's most endangered historic properties.

“Developing the Hotel Ivy project involved the reclamation and restoration of this 75-year-old building,” says Hotel Ivy owner Jeff Laux. “It was incredibly important to the city of Minneapolis that this tower be preserved and that we incorporate a fitting reuse of the building into our development plans.”

Laux purchased the property with partner and codeveloper Gary Benson in 2004, and as the Ivy Tower Project began, the partners ultimately settled on a hybrid luxury hotel and condominium complex. “In its entirety, this property is about 400,000 square feet — 20,000 square feet of which is the actual historic Ivy Tower,” Laux says.

The historic building houses Chef Steven Brown's restaurant, Porter & Frye; the acclaimed 17,000-square-foot destination Ivy Spa Club; and eight of the hotel's suites. New construction wraps around the building to form the rest of the 19-story, 136-room hotel and the 26-story, 92-unit condominium tower.

Meeting the requirements to establish itself among Starwood's five-star brand took an incredible degree of innovation, style, and attention to detail in the hotel's interior design, facilities, amenities, and service offerings. On the technology side, systems design and integration by Minneapolis-based Appollo Systems drove Hotel Ivy above and beyond its mark, according to Laux.

“With the AV system, we far exceeded the specifications and standards that we were required to meet by way of our Starwood-brand standards,” he says.


Designing a high-end AV system and network infrastructure for the entire Hotel Ivy and Residence complex — including restaurant, spa, ballroom, and conference areas — became an almost three-year project for Appollo Systems, according to VP of AV Integration/Senior Systems Designer Michael Vetter.

“We were brought on by hotel consultant Wischermann Partners, the Minneapolis-based hospitality firm whose founder, Paul Wischermann, deals with many of the new Starwood properties,” Vetter says. “We designed the audio, video, and digital-signage systems, and handled all the voice, data, and fiber-optic infrastructure in the building, as well.”

Laux says he firmly believes that technology plays a big role in creating an ultra-luxury experience, but that it should do so from behind the scenes. “The technology's purpose is to deliver and enhance the guest experience, and if all is working correctly, the guests shouldn't really know why they feel so good being in the environment — they just do,” he says.

The integrated audio, video, and digital-signage systems combine to set this luxury scene. Senses are stimulated upon entering the lobby. As guests move from reception to lounge, elevator to suite or meeting room, the AV experience is tailored to the environment. Appollo designed a 20-zone distributed audio system based around the Biamp Systems Nexia platform, with Tannoy in-ceiling loudspeakers powered by Lab.gruppen amplification. Although the system is accommodating of multiple sources and emergency paging, the main sound source is a four-zone, Internet-based digital music server with CD/MP3 backup.

“They came to us looking for a premium foreground sound system,” Vetter says. “The music was going to be an important part of the Hotel Ivy experience. They [referenced] other high-end speakers, but knowing that [some] high-end Las Vegas hotels with larger budgets have chosen Tannoy speakers, we suggested they go with Tannoy.”

From the start, Appollo conceived of a system with network control and identified all the unique music zones and what kind of zone equalization would be needed.

“Calibration was a challenge since there are areas with a lot of marble and glass, which will obviously sound different than the carpeted lounge,” Vetter says. “There were a lot of intimate areas that needed controlling. We spent a lot of time calibrating the speakers to suit the acoustics in different zones.”

Working closely with Biamp, Appollo designed one of the larger DSP programs that it had written to date. The house sound-system design combines Biamp Nexia CS and SP units located in a centralized equipment room, running customized Nexia control software for the system on a custom Dell control computer. The Nexia software and Biamp's daVinci user-control interface is accessible via any networked computer, onsite and offsite.

Biamp Logic Boxes and Voltage Control Boxes (VCBs) are located in the central machine room and third-floor meeting pre-function area, and Biamp volume/source select remotes also control the main house system, the meeting rooms, and the Ivy Spa Club. Lab.gruppen's NLB 60E NomadLink bridge and network controller controls and monitors the Lab.gruppen C 20:8X amplifiers that power the Tannoy CMS501 BM and CMS8 TDC loudspeakers used throughout the hotel.

“As premium sound environments, the lounge, spa, and fitness center and the third-floor ballroom and boardroom areas got high-performance Tannoy CMS8 TDCs,” Vetter says. “We installed the flush-mounted CMS501 BMs in the lobby, second- and third-floor common areas, and the smaller meeting rooms.”

The 17,000-square-foot Ivy Spa Club uses a Sonance DAB1 distributed-audio system and Sonance loudspeakers in its multiple treatment rooms. The Porter & Frye restaurant is also a zone of the hotel system, and it uses JBL Control 25 loudspeakers throughout.

“At Hotel Ivy, all audio sources run directly into a digital processor, so anything can be routed anywhere,” Vetter says. “This flexibility paid off immediately. On the first day, we fired up the system — when the whole third floor was booked for a wedding and they wanted to send a specific audio feed to the third-floor hallways. We hadn't initially anticipated they would need to send audio specifically to that space. However, within five minutes, we were able to enable that routing on the Nexia software.”

The system's flexibility has also made training, reconfiguring and upgrading a breeze, according to Vetter. “We've been able to have our service center walk people through the system, reset or upgrade the system from their desks here at our facility,” he says. “And, for example, the hotel's ballroom manager has the ability to remotely — from his office downstairs — preconfigure his meeting spaces.”

The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: Hotel Ivy, Minneapolis

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Janice Brown


The meeting rooms and ballroom occupy the third floor of Hotel Ivy, and a central control station in the pre-function area houses a second Biamp Nexia CS unit and Logic Box and VCB controllers.

“We are a boutique-sized meeting center, and our meeting space is broken into three separate meeting rooms plus the reception and pre-function area,” Laux says. “Whereas a meeting for 400 people may happen a block away at another hotel, when the 75 to 100 high-level executives want to have a specific presentation that needs to be delivered in an elegant space, Hotel Ivy provides that high-end meeting environment. We can and have also used the entire third-floor space [about 5,500 square feet] for a 200-guest wedding reception.”

The main ballroom is equipped with a 120in. Da-Lite concealed-in-the-ceiling tensioned electric screen, with Sanyo 2400-ANSI-lumen data projector, Extron MLC 226 IP control, and various PC and DVD inputs. The main meeting room is optimized for AV conferencing, with the Nexia CS; a 65in. Sharp LCD that's feature-ready for videoconferencing, laptop, and PC inputs; and a Crestron CP2E control system with touchpanel and integrated lighting system control.

Dedicated Lab.gruppen amplification powers the Tannoy CMS8 TDCs in the ballrooms and boardrooms. CMS501 BMs outfit the smaller meeting rooms. Shure ULXP124/85 wireless combo microphone systems and ample microphone inputs are available in every presentation space.


Appollo installed a total of 12 high-resolution digital-signage displays throughout Hotel Ivy, and the company created discrete video zones for pertinent content using Tightrope Media Systems Carousel Server. Guests making use of the business facilities, for example, will look to digital-signage displays for meeting room information and business news, while in the fitness area, the displays can operate as TVs.

Appollo also equipped each of the 136 guest rooms with a 42in. LG Electronics 42LC5DC flatscreen TV, hooked up for video-on-demand and LodgeNet Interactive services. As for the residences, Vetter says, “There's also a DirecTV overlay system where the condominium residents can have one shared satellite dish and then bring in their own receivers, and that's distributed as well, using the one-cable solution.”


With Appollo designing the entire network infrastructure at Hotel Ivy, the AV, IT, and communications systems are all integrated across the property. The Appollo team worked with the site's Internet provider and telephone contractor to make sure all of the systems talk to each other without unwanted interference.

Staff communications transpire via VoIP or text messaging over wireless telephones running off the robust Internet network in place at the hotel. With this system, the staff can page a number of people simultaneously, and the person taking the call will acknowledge by text or voice. This mode of communication helps to enhance, and even improve, guest services.

“As a relatively small, but very high-end hotel, we need to ensure immediate response times to meet our guest-experience standards,” Laux says. “This system records the call and managers can track, monitor, and improve on staff response times.”

Janice Brown is a New York-based freelance writer specializing in music and sound technology. Her work can also be found in Mix Magazine.

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