May 16, 2007
News is plentiful from Meetings Professionals International. The organization has hired Bren Clevenger-Ori, CAE, CMP, as COO; she starts her new position on June 4. Clevenger-Ori comes to the association from the Promotional Products Association International. Two other staff members are leaving the organization: Susan Magee, director of professional development, and Michelle M. AuBuchon, professional development specialist. In MPI technology news, on May 2, the updated website ( went live with simpler navigation tools and expanded personal pages including a blog. There's also a beta version of a meetings industry "wiki" (an online resource that allows users to add and edit content). And last but not least, MPI has extended its summer trade show, MeetingPlace 2007 at the World Education Congress in Montréal, to two days: July 29, noon to 3 p.m., and July 30, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Plans to build a 64-story, 206-room luxury Shangri-La hotel in Midtown Manhattan officially were announced on Thursday. Construction will begin late this year, with the opening scheduled for 2010. Of the 206 rooms, 66 will be sold as condo-hotel units, and the top 10 floors will house 17 luxury residences. Featuring 5,000 square feet of function space, Shangri-La's signature CHI spa, business and fitness centers, the property will be the brand's first in New York City; Shangri-La hotels also are being built in Chicago, Las Vegas and Miami.

RockResorts International LLC, a luxury hotel company owned by Vail Resorts, will operate a $420 million South Lake Tahoe development along the California/Nevada border. The Chateau at Heavenly Village will include two luxury condo-hotels; a 50,000-square-foot conference center with 21,000 square feet of prefunction space, for a total of 71,000 square feet of space; a spa; restaurants, and retail space. The development will be LEED certified and is projected to open by winter 2009.

Despite protests from local community groups and elected officials, plans to construct the Trump SoHo, a 45-story, 413-unit luxury condo-hotel in New York City, have been approved. Opponents of the project fear the units will be used as residences rather than for transient business, and there is talk of taking legal action to stop its construction. A spokesperson for Trump SoHo declined to comment on an impending lawsuit, but claims that "no unit may be occupied for more than 29 days in a 36-day period and for no more than 120 days in a calendar year." The hotel will have 13,000 square feet of conference facilities and in-house catering from the property's restaurant.

The $90 million, 159-room Ivy Hotel opened on Tuesday in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. The property's 20,000-square-feet of meeting facilities include a ballroom for up to 250 people, a boardroom seating 60 and a 250-person rooftop lounge. Additional features include a rooftop pool, a 24-hour fitness center, optional personal butler service and a nightclub.  

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association board of directors approved plans last week for an "enhancement program" at the Las Vegas Convention Center that's now slated to cost $890 million, or $153 million more than previously expected. The program will add a grand lobby connecting the center's three main halls, as well as 86,600 square feet of meeting space to the South Hall. A fire station and a police station will be built on site; also planned are cosmetic upgrades and infrastructure enhancements. The CVA said the bulk of the project will be finished by 2010, with some work continuing into 2011.

Plans to build a 2,000-room W Las Vegas have been nixed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and developer Edge Group because "significant challenges" could not be overcome, the developer said in a statement. The project had been designed to include 300,000 square feet of meeting space. The Edge Group statement said all condominium reservation deposits have been refunded.

The Savoy, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts' landmark London property, will close in December to undergo a $200 million refurbishment. The hotel currently has 263 guest rooms and 19,000 square feet of meeting space; those figures might change during the renovation, but no specifics will be available for a while, according to a Fairmont spokesperson. The project, which will be overseen by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, is expected to last 16 months.

Harrah's Entertainment and songwriter Jimmy Buffet will build a new Gulf Coast destination in Biloxi to be called Margaritaville Casino & Resort. The $1 billion project, which is expected to break ground this summer, will take over and expand the site of the former Grand Casino and Casino Magic. The new property will feature 420 new and 378 renovated guest rooms; 66,000 square feet of meeting space; a 100,000-sqaure foot casino; a full-service spa, and 250,000 square feet of retail space. Harrah's work will be completed in spring 2010.