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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | January 17, 2013

Loews Hollywood HotelExactly one year after taking over the helm of Loews Hotels & Resorts, Paul Whetsell, president and CEO, is making good on his aggressive growth strategy to double the portfolio strength of this solid high-end hotel chain by the end of 2015.

This week, the New York City-based chain, whose portfolio has hovered around 15 to 20 properties for the last decade, announced it will open a new 400-room hotel in Chicago. Set to open in January 2015, the Loews Chicago Hotel will be part of a 52-story mixed-use tower, which will include 390 luxury residential units, 25,000 square feet of meeting space, a full-service spa and multiple dining outlets. The news comes on the heels of earlier deal announcements from the re-energized company that will add three other major properties in key markets -- one a new-build, the others rebrands.

Several months ago, Loews announced it had entered into a partnership with Universal Parks & Resorts to build the 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando. Scheduled to open next year, it is one of the largest hotel developments currently under construction in the United States.

Meanwhile, in a deal struck with CIM Group, the chain acquired the 632-room Renaissance Hollywood Hotel & Spa, which has been rebranded the Loews Hollywood Hotel and currently is undergoing a $26 million renovation, to wrap up by late summer of this year. With 48,000 square feet of meeting space, the property adds significant muscle to Loews' cache of group-heavy hotels, especially since it anchors the connecting mixed-use Hollywood & Vine Center, which houses more than 80 retail outlets and the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards.

In addition, the company has entered into an agreement to purchase the 356-room Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C., which last year completed a $23 million renovation. That acquisition will be signed off on later this month. "These new developments are important steps in our plan to expand Loews in major cities across North America," said Whetsell.

Also factoring heavily in Loews' new development strategy is a heavy investment in brand initiatives that have many of the company's iconic properties undergoing major facelifts. Earlier this month, the 354-room Loews Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan closed its doors for a yearlong, $70 million overhaul. According to Loews executives, the hotel is scheduled to reopen in time for the 2014 Super Bowl, which is being held at nearby MetLife Stadium. Also undergoing an overhaul is the Loews Santa Monica (Calif.).

It might be a small company playing catch-up, but Loews has deep pockets to plumb in pushing through its new game plan. This year, I expect the chain to make several major announcements, including more product in key markets (perhaps even on the international front), as well branding and guest-recognition initiatives