March 08, 2006

On March 2, European hotel chain Accor announced plans for six new economy-brand Ibis hotels in China's Sichuan province, to be developed at a cost of US$150 million. Three of the hotels will be in the city of Chengdu, with additional properties in Yi Bing, Ya An and De Yang. "China is undergoing profound economic change," said Gilles Pelisson, CEO of Accor. "During my recent visit, I was impressed by the potential of Sichuan province. It is a dynamic region, and we believe that a network of up to 20 Ibis hotels could be developed in this area alone."

The 336-room Westin Arlington Gateway opened for business last Friday. The $75 million hotel, the first luxury property to be built in the city in 13 years, is four miles from Reagan National Airport. The property features 12 meeting rooms and two restaurants.

Atlanta-based Sol’s Hotels & Resorts, part of former Ritz-Carlton boss Horst Schulze's West Paces Hotel Group, announced its first beachside property, the Sunny Isles Sol’s Resort, Spa & Residences. Due to open in fall 2008, just north of Bal Harbor in Sunny Isles, Fla., the property will have 140 guest rooms and 130 condominiums, as well as a spa, meeting facilities and an upscale restaurant.

W Hotels announced on March 7 its first Middle Eastern hotel, the W Dubai Festival City. To open in 2008, the hotel will be part of the Marsa al Khor ("Harbor of the Creek") section of the mixed-use Dubai Festival City development, two kilometers from the airport and within Dubai's Central Business District. Dubai Festival City will have approximately 2.6 million square feet of retail shopping, 90 restaurants, a marina, 20,000 apartments and an 18-hole golf course. In addition, the W Hotel will feature 350 rooms, including 100 loft-style suites, several upscale restaurants, a nightclub, a spa and meeting space.

Marriott International has acquired the 782-room Sofitel Paris Rive Gauche Hotel from Accor. Following an extensive refurbishment, the hotel will be rebranded as a 757-room Marriott hotel in late 2007. In the interim, the property -- which has a large ballroom, a 180-seat auditorium and 41 meeting rooms -- will be operated by Marriott as the Rive Gauche Saint-Jacques Hotel & Conference Center, Paris.

The Crowne Plaza St. Paul-Riverfront opened last Friday in St. Paul, Minn., with 479 guest rooms and 55,000 square feet of meeting space.  

Proposals to build two separate condo-hotels in Milwaukee are awaiting city approval, according to local news reports. A spokesperson for the Department of City Development could not be reached for comment. One plan calls for a $200 million condo-hotel with 150 guest rooms and 400 luxury residential units to be built across from the Midwest Airlines Center, according to the Business Journal of Milwaukee. A second, $70 million property with 150 hotel rooms and 30 condominiums has been proposed for a lot across from the Milwaukee Public Market, in the Historic Third Ward district, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  

Construction could begin on a new Hard Rock condo-hotel as early as 2007 at Copper Mountain Resort in Summit County, Colo., resort officials announced last week. Hard Rock International, in partnership with Intrawest, is developing a proposal for a multimillion-dollar mixed-use property with 320 residences at the base of the mountain. Preliminary plans also include a spa, outdoor hot tubs, a multilevel swimming pool and an outdoor bar. Copper Mountain Resort is 75 miles west of Denver.

Highland Hospitality Corp. announced the acquisition last week of the 673-room Renaissance Nashville for $77 million. The hotel will remain a Renaissance, and the management company will invest $6.5 million to upgrade the property over the next two years.

A new Mandara spa will debut this month at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. The decor will blend the hotel's arts and crafts style with Mandara's Balinese look. The 745 guest rooms will be given pillow-top beds and touch-ups over the next six months. At the 489-room Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, the 7,250-square-foot Pacific Ballroom will be updated with new wall coverings, carpet and paint this summer.

The 444-room Fairmont Newport Beach (Calif.) announced a June completion for its guestroom renovation. All the rooms will be fitted with 32-inch flat-panel TVs, Bose DVD players, high-speed Internet access, and new pillow-top mattresses and linens. A redesigned pool with cabanas opens in April, a fine-dining restaurant and new lobby will open in June, and a spa is set to debut in late September. The 19,000 square feet of meeting space has been renovated as well. The entire makeover carries a $23 million price tag.