March 30, 2005

On Monday, the 616-room Louisville Marriott Downtown opened its doors. The 17-floor headquarters hotel is attached by walkway to the Kentucky International Convention Center and has 50,000 square feet of meeting space.  

Opening April 4 is the new Embassy Suites Hotel Albuquerque. The 260-room property offers the full-service Spa Botanica and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced plans to convert the Sheraton Bal Harbour to an upscale St. Regis Resort & Residences. Set along the beach in Bal Harbour, Fla., the hotel will unveil its new name in June 2006, the property's 50th anniversary.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts held a groundbreaking ceremony this week for a new luxury hotel in Wenzhou, China, opening in early 2008. On the Yellow Sea coast, the 400-room Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou, will be adjacent to the existing Wenzhou Convention & Exhibition Centre. Hotel meeting and banquet facilities will feature a 21,530-square-foot ballroom, a 3,010-square-foot auditorium and 10 meeting rooms. Plans also call for a full-service spa.

Last week was a busy one for Eastern Connecticut development. Two sprawling, controversial, and repeatedly stymied projects took significant steps forward. Voters in Preston overwhelmingly approved a 120-day negotiation period between the board of selectmen and developers of the $1.5 billion Utopia project, expected to bring in 4,200 hotel rooms, several theme parks and a film studio.  In Plainfield, a NASCAR racetrack-cum-convention center that was rejected last November scored a rebound as well. The planning and zoning commission voted to make way for at least some part of the development with an amendment to the city's zoning regulations. Next week the commission will meet again to determine how much of the proposed 1,100 acres will be included in the new zone. Although details of the proposal have yet to be fleshed out, the project purportedly will offer the world's only indoor NASCAR racetrack in the world's largest domed facility.

By April, the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park will have spent $3 million on 16 new suites, dropping the hotel's room count from 277 to 261 but increasing its suite count to 48. Eight new Premiere Suites not only function as guest accommodations but also will be ideal for executive meetings of up to six or receptions of about 20.

The Germany city of Dusseldorf is getting a new meeting hotel: The 533-room Maritim Hotel Dusseldorf. The property, which will be completed in late 2007, will have extensive meetings facilities, including two halls that will seat 2,400 and 1,150, respectively, foyers with 14,472 square feet of function space and 21 smaller meeting rooms.