February 28, 2007

The 143-room Crowne Plaza Chicago-Silversmith has been purchased by Highland Hospitality for approximately $34.5 million and has been renamed the Silversmith Hotel, an independent property managed by Crestline Hotels and Resorts. About $2.5 million will be spent to renovate the guest rooms and add 3,000 square feet of meeting space, for a total of approximately 5,500 square feet.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will manage the 296-room Westin Xian, in the ancient Chinese city of Xian, opening in 2010. The property will be part of the planned Great Tang All Day Mall, which is expected to be the worldÕs longest pedestrian mall, complete with cultural, tourism and sightseeing facilities. The Westin Xian will have 11,000 square feet of meeting space, five restaurants, a health club and a spa.

Northview Hotel Group has entered into a joint venture with Behringer Harvard and Five Star Realty to acquire the Hawk's Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. Northview will manage the property and oversee a $27 million renovation that will remodel the 177 guest rooms and add a new lobby, dining options, and a redesigned pool and lagoon. Work at the resort, which offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space, should be completed by early 2008.
MHI Hospitality Corp. has entered into a 15-year franchise agreement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to brand its 186-room Louisville, Ky.-area property as a Sheraton hotel. The Sheraton Riverside Louisville North Hotel, which is in Jeffersonville, Ind., across the Ohio River from downtown Louisville, will open in the first quarter of 2008 after extensive renovations to the guest rooms, lobby and exterior.  
The landmark Skirvin Hilton Hotel has opened in Oklahoma City, Okla., following a restoration. Closed since 1988, the hotel underwent a $55 million modernization while maintaining many of its historical elements. The 14-story property includes three towers for a total of 225 guest rooms, as well as the signature Park Avenue Grill restaurant, the Red Piano lounge, a fitness center, an indoor swimming pool, a business center and 18,500 square feet of meeting space.

Spanish hotel giant Sol Meli will break ground later this year on a 350-room hotel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, by the new cruise terminal, according to a spokesperson at the Paradisus Puerto Rico, a sister hotel on the island. The ME by Melia will offer an upscale boutique hotel vibe.

According to a Feb. 26 article in London's Financial Times, Mumbai-based Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palace, India's leading hospitality group, is planning a $1.5 billion global expansion. In an interview, Raymond Bickson, CEO of Taj, is quoted as saying international expansion was necessary in order for the company to compete: "There are many players coming to our part of the world and they have more distribution channels and bigger loyalty schemes. To better protect our base we need to plant our flag in more gateway cities around the world. Our expansion will make our brand a global brand."