by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 30, 2012

RadissonThe U.S. hotel development pipeline, much like new home construction, has slowed to a near grinding halt. Earlier this month, Smith Travel Research reported that as of October 2012, a total of 2,590 projects (including some 290,000-plus rooms, 70 percent of those branded) were active, representing a 6 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2011. And the crunch is only going to get worse. "Record levels of demand for hotel guest rooms persist," said Amanda Hiter, president of STR, whose report pointed out that there currently are 4.9 million such rooms in the U.S., compared with 4.4 million in 2005.  

Still, there is some good news on the immediate inventory front, with several major full-service meeting properties slated to open in 2013, including the following five, hand-picked by The Hotel Insider for their interest and/or prominence.

• This January, the 294-room Westin Birmingham, the Alabama city's first LEED-certified hotel, will open for business. Connected via skybridge to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the hotel will feature 7,000 square feet of meeting and function space.

• In March, the $137.5 million Radisson Blu Mall of America will debut in Bloomington, Minn., connected to the Mall of America. This 500-room property, with 26,300 square feet of meeting space, follows on the heels of the Radisson Blu in Chicago in terms of European contemporary design and cool appeal. Sleekness isn't everything, however. According to executives at parent company Carlson, the hotel plans to "pursue LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council once it opens its doors this coming spring." Currently less than 50 U.S. hotels can claim that level of LEED distinction, which gives the Radisson Blu Mall of America a green notch up on the competition. 

• This week, the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago announced that phase one of its $110 million multimillion-dollar expansion, the construction of a new 460-room guest tower, is on target for a summer unveiling. That new inventory will significantly up the hotel's total guest room count to 1,260. The massive renovation project won't be over, though. Next month owners begin phase two, which will include a top-down renovation of the hotel's existing 800 guest rooms, followed by an overhaul of its 25,000-square-foot Hyatt Conference Center. The property's owners, the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, are betting that the increased room count and overhaul will enhance McCormick Center's appeal. "Hyatt Regency McCormick Place will play an even larger role in both attracting and hosting Chicago's top meetings and conventions, offering the convention planner even more guest room availability directly connected to the nation's largest convention center," said the hotel's general manager, Paul Daly, in an official release.

• Also adding to the Windy City's appeal next year will be the new 320-room Langham Chicago, which is set to open in May with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, three restaurants and a 9,000-square-foot spa.

• Another major meeting property getting ready to come online in the coming months is the 800-room Omni Nashville Hotel, which this week, 17 months after breaking ground, held its ceremonial topping-out ceremony by hoisting a Norwegian pine tree up to the 21st floor, as a symbol of good fortune. Scheduled to open in October 2013, the hotel, which anchors the city's new Music City Center and expanded Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, will feature 80,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 25,000-square foot grand ballroom. According to Ed Netzhammer, regional vice president for Omni Hotels & Resorts, the hotel has booked more than 175,000 group room nights since August 2012 when it began accepting group business.