January 30, 2008

Boutique hotel developer Ian Schrager and J.W. Marriott Jr., CEO of Marriott International, have partnered to develop a new lifestyle boutique brand called Edition. Currently, nine signed development deals are in the works, with the first property expected to open in 2010. Hotels are planned for Paris; Madrid; Costa Rica; Miami; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Scottsdale, Ariz., and two in Los Angeles. Each Edition will average 150 to 200 rooms and reflect the architecture and design of its destination. According to the announcement, Schrager will lead the design, marketing, branding, and food and beverage concepts for Edition, and Marriott will oversee the development and operation of the properties.

On Friday, the 346-room Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa and adjacent Montgomery Convention Center will open in Montgomery, Ala. The newly renovated 73,000-square-foot convention center and the 12-story hotel will offer a combined 103,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 14,000-square-foot ballroom and nine meeting rooms. The hotel also will offer a 9,000-square-foot spa.

According to a recent report by Lodging Econometrics, a leading authority on hotel real estate, the U.S. lodging pipeline is at an all-time high. In 2007, 985 new hotels representing 100,507 rooms opened, marking the first time since 2001 that more than 100,000 new hotel rooms became available. Looking ahead to 2008, Lodging Econometrics is forecasting the opening of 1,208 hotels, representing 133,628 new rooms -- a 2.8 percent growth over 2007. The upscale and mid-market segments together make up 76 percent of pipeline projects.

The 400-suite Ameristar St. Charles (Mo.) hotel opened this week in a limited capacity alongside the existing 130,000-square-foot Ameristar Casino St. Charles and its 55,000-square-foot conference center. About a quarter of the hotel's rooms now are open, and the rest will come online in phases this spring, along with a 7,000-square-foot spa, all part of a $250 million expansion at the casino. The conference center, which opened in 2006, has 19,000 square feet of meeting space. When the complex is complete, it will be called the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa.

A grand opening was held Jan. 28 for the 694-room Sheraton Cable Beach Resort, in Nassau, the Bahamas. With its sister property, the 850-room Wyndham Nassau Resort, the Sheraton shares 15 restaurants and lounges, as well as the 35,000-square-foot Crystal Palace Casino. In all, $145 million was spent to overhaul the two resorts and the casino. The Sheraton Cable Beach has 25,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, about half of which comprise a ballroom.

The 282-room Plaza Hotel in New York City reopened its Plaza Grand Ballroom following a three-year, $4.5 million restoration. In addition to restoring the ballroom's neoclassical decor, the renovation added a state-of-the-art kitchen, enhanced lighting and sound equipment, additional prefunction space and 15,000 square feet of new meeting space. The ballroom seats 500 to 700 guests.

The 5,034-room MGM Grand in Las Vegas opened the Marquee Ballroom on Tuesday. The facility, a pillar-free, 92,000-square-foot space adjacent to the MGM Grand Conference Center, accommodates up to 6,000 people for trade shows, general sessions or catered functions. The MGM Grand now offers a total of 602,000 square feet of meeting space.

A fire at the 3,002-room Monte Carlo Resort & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip on Friday forced the hotel to evacuate all guests and employees. The property, now closed, reports no major injuries were suffered. MGM Mirage still is assessing the damage, which was mostly confined to the top five floors, according to reports, but officials hope to reopen the hotel "very soon." Meanwhile, the casino-hotel company is transferring both guests and events throughout its nine other properties on the Strip. Updated information will be posted on montecarlo.com or can be obtained by calling the guest hotline at (888) 395-0776.