August 04, 2004

The Fort Worth City Council might vote tomorrow on a convention center hotel proposal from Omni Hotels; if not tomorrow, the vote should come within the next two weeks. The $90 million, 600-room project requires no money upfront from the city; the hotel company is asking instead for rebates of city and state hotel occupancy taxes and sales taxes generated by the property, and for a 10-year tax abatement of city and county property taxes. Omni also is requesting to be awarded a 10-year catering contract for the adjacent Fort Worth Convention Center.

In this era of heightened security, the San Antonio City Council has passed a strengthened ordinance requiring all travelers checking in to a hotel or motel to provide a valid official photo ID or other documentation showing they are the person named on the credit card being used at the time of registration. The ordinance aims to prevent people from checking in under any false name or from providing false ID.

The 500-room Sheraton Colorado Springs has completed an $8 million renovation, adding high-speed Internet access, 27-inch-screen TVs and Sheraton's Suite Sleeper beds. The property offers 43,000 square feet of meeting space.

Donald Trump announced on July 29 that he will build a 64-story hotel and apartment tower in Las Vegas. To be called the Trump International Hotel & Tower, the $300 million project is a joint venture with developer Phil Ruffin, owner of Las Vegas-based New Frontier. The tower will occupy 3.5 acres of a 41-acre site, leaving plenty of room for expansion. The groundbreaking date and guest-room-to-condominium ratio have not been announced.

The DoubleTree Hotel Austin (Texas) begins an $8 million renovation on Aug. 9. The 350 guest rooms, public areas, meeting rooms, restaurant, bar and fitness center all will receive a facelift. Work is expected to be completed by early next year. The property offers 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

Coulston Enterprises will buy the last 942 acres of the Heritage USA resort site that once belonged to Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, the television evangelists. Both Coulston and Heritage USA are based in Fort Mill, S.C., approximately 15 miles south of Charlotte, N.C. The theme park, which closed in 1997, once drew six million visitors a year and includes a water park, a 500-room hotel (formerly called the Heritage Grand Hotel) and an unfinished 21-story condominium tower, most of which is currently in poor condition. Another approximately 1,000 acres of the original site already has been sold off for housing, with Coulston responsible for the majority of those deals. Earl Coulston, the owner of Coulston Enterprises, said the deal would go through in the next few days but an announcement of the site' future development won't come until the end of the month.

Orient-Express Hotels will open the 54-room Hotel Caruso in Ravello, Italy, in June 2005. The historic property, which Orient-Express acquired in 1999, is undergoing a $30 million renovation.

The 205-room 70 Park Avenue Hotel, the first New York City property from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, opened last Thursday. The hotel, four blocks from Grand Central Station, is the product of a $19 million renovation of the Doral Park Avenue. The property has a 1,000-square-foot meeting room.

According to the Tampa Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, ground was broken on an Embassy Suites on Aug. 2 at the Tampa Convention Center. The 360-suite hotel, connected to the center via a covered bridge, will have 11,000 square feet of meeting space. Opening in spring 2006, it will join the 717-room Tampa Marriott Waterside as the only hotels with direct access to the convention center.

Harrah's St. Louis Casino & Hotel opened a $65 million, 211-room tower Aug. 1, expanding the property's room count to 502. This is the last part of an $85 million expansion and renovation begun early this year. The new tower adds 3,500 square feet of meeting space, for a total of 13,500 square feet.