January 26, 2005

The State of Louisiana's Bond Commission gave the city of Shreveport final permission on Jan. 21 to start the process of selling $52 million in bonds to finance a planned convention center hotel. (The Shreveport Convention Center is now being built and will open in January 2006.) The project, most likely to be a 300-room Hilton, is not without controversy. Opponents threaten a lawsuit to block the project.

On Jan. 24, Turnberry Associates, based in Aventura, Fla., agreed to buy the 920-room Fontainebleau Hilton Resort in Miami. The property, which will open its second tower next month with 462 rooms, also plans a third tower -- most likely to open in early 2007 -- for a total of approximately 1,600 rooms. Additionally, Turnberry announced it will begin a $150 million, two-year renovation project to refurbish the property's meeting space and add a spa, signature restaurants and Las Vegas-style entertainment venues. For the last two years, Turnberry has been involved in the construction of the two new towers but now assumes ownership. Hilton will continue to manage the property.

On Jan. 20, Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage and Singapore-based CapitaLand submitted a joint proposal to the government of Singapore for developing an entertainment resort south of the nation's central business district in the Marina Bayfront neighborhood. No timeline has been announced for the project.

The 215-room Hilton-Oklahoma City Northwest has been reflagged the Crowne Plaza Oklahoma City. The property is slated for a $2.5 million renovation that will focus on the hotel's guest rooms, lobby, restaurant and lounge areas. "We are delighted about continuing to grow the Crowne Plaza brand in North America," said Kevin Kowalski, vice president, brand management, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts. The property's renovation will be completed by the end of the year.

Investment firm Quinlan Private has launched a new hotel company, called Maybourne Hotel Group. The new entity will own and manage three former Savoy Group properties in London: The Berkeley, Claridge's and The Connaught. (The firm will add a spa and 35 rooms, for a total of 127, to The Connaught.) Geraldine McKenna, previously executive vice president of the Savoy Group, will be CEO of the new group. According to a spokesperson, Maybourne plans to add other international luxury properties to its portfolio.

On Jan. 25, French hotel company Accor announced it will take over management of the Sheraton Brisbane, in Brisbane, Australia, as of Feb. 1. The property, which recently finished a US$7.64 million renovation, will be reflagged as the Sofitel Brisbane. The hotel has 410 rooms and 14 function rooms catering up to 1,200 people.

Contrary to some industry speculation, officials with the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority expect the sale of the Westin Providence and the planned development of an adjacent hotel tower to suffer no delays. Last week, after the Cranston, R.I.-based Procaccianti Group was named top bidder for the Westin and a neighboring empty lot, company president James Procaccianti was revealed to be on the receiving end of an unresolved, 10-year-old lawsuit from the state, a fact the RICCA said was not disclosed in the firm's initial bid. Although RICCA chairman David Duffy claimed to be "not happy" about the late-breaking news, convention center authority representatives say the sale to Procaccianti Group will go ahead despite the lawsuit. The RICCA board will meet to finalize its decision Thursday.

Capping an extensive renovation, the 224-room Westin Governor Morris announced its reopening last week in Morristown, N.J. The thoroughly rejuvenated hotel features a New American restaurant called Copeland with raw bar, martini lounge and wine room, and has 25,000 square feet of meeting space.

Groundbreaking on a $77 million, 280-room expansion to the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, purportedly Brooklyn's only full-service hotel, took place last week. When finished, the hotel will have 656 guest rooms. The Brooklyn Marriott expansion is scheduled to open fall 2006. The project will include a 3,000-square-foot conference room, bringing the total meeting space to 36,000 square feet.