Rick Takach, CEO of hotel builder Vesta Hospitality, was on hand to turn over the ceremonial first shovelful of dirt, joined by Washington state Sen. Annette Cleveland and Port of Vancouver CEO Julianna Marler.

“We are thrilled to be at the center of the beginning stages of the revitalization of Terminal 1, giving locals a place to come together and celebrate their city, as well as creating a welcoming destination for those visiting the Pacific Northwest,” Takach said. “Our team has been working hard, and it is incredibly exciting to see this project come to fruition.”

The new hotel will be on the south side of Columbia Way, a block west of the shuttered Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay building, which will be demolished as part of the Terminal 1 project. Current designs call for it to be replaced with a public marketplace akin to Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

The 10-acre Terminal 1 site is located between the BNSF Railway berm and the Columbia River, extending west from Columbia Way to one block away from Esther Street. The area is contiguous with The Waterfront Vancouver, but the port owns the Terminal 1 land and is developing it separately.

“We are so pleased to have the AC Hotel by Marriott as the first project underway at Terminal 1,” Marler said. “Vesta Hospitality is an outstanding partner, and as a local developer, they truly understand the port’s vision for our waterfront property. This project is a key component to making Terminal 1 a vibrant gathering place for our community and a premier destination for the region.”

The planned hotel will be seven stories tall and include 150 guest rooms and 4,000 square feet of meeting space, with room on the ground floor for a small retail amenity like a coffee shop. It will also include an interior parking garage hidden on the second and third floors.

The AC Hotel chain originated in Spain in 1998 and spread throughout Europe before being acquired by Marriott in 2011 and brought to the North American market two years later. AC are the initials of the company’s founder, Antonio Catalan.

The brand is known for bringing a distinctive European feel to its hotels, with features such as high ceilings, hardwood floors and European-style breakfasts. AC Hotels target small, high-end corporate gatherings.

The groundbreaking on Thursday technically didn’t mark the start of construction on the building itself, but rather the start of a preliminary project to stabilize the site. The ground under the future hotel contains a significant amount of fill material, which would make it susceptible to soil liquefaction during an earthquake unless stabilization work is completed beforehand.

The stabilization project is one of several that will need to take place throughout the Terminal 1 site — work will also need to take place under portions of Daniels Way, under part of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail and under a future stormwater facility at the east end of Terminal 1.

The overall AC Hotel project will cost about $50 million. The project is partially funded by an investment fund under the downtown Vancouver opportunity zone, which was created last year as part of a new federal program aimed at steering private investment dollars to underdeveloped areas.

Construction of the hotel itself is targeted to be underway by the end of the year, with a planned opening in mid-2021.

“We’re hoping to have the pad in place by Dec. 1,” Takach said.