Pennsylvania Guide

Not Out of the Woods
As of press time, the troubled Foxwoods Pennsylvania casino project, slated for a site on the waterfront in South Philadelphia, appe ared to be in more trouble. Pennsylvania's Office of Enforcement Counsel filed a complaint in April, seeking to revoke the development team's casino license due to excessive delays and accumulating fines. The casino development company, Philadelphia Entertainment Development Partners, despite having tried to buy more time, is likely looking at a July 30 deadline for gathering information for their defense. In March it appeared casino mogul Steve Wynn might rescue the project -- and possibly take over management from Foxwoods -- but after presenting detailed plans to the Gaming Control Board, Wynn unexpectedly pulled out of the project. Construction of the casino has yet to begin.

Philadelphia
Local Update: The Dolce Valley Forge completed a $20 million renovation to its 327-room property near the King of Prussia mall last fall. All guest rooms were refurbished, meeting space and the grand ballroom were revamped, and a pool and patio were added. The hotel now offers 24,000 square feet of meeting space and 22 conference rooms.

An expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center is slated to debut in March 2011. The facility will be 62 percent larger, offering 679,000 square feet of exhibit space, seven halls and 79 meeting rooms. The expanded venue will be able to host two conventions simultaneously.

A $320 million project,
 to be called The Vine, is slated to include a 250-room InterContinental Hotel with more than 18,000 square feet of meeting space and a spa. The development will rise on the north side of Vine Street, between 16th and 17th streets. A timeline should be announced shortly.

A 250-room Monaco Hotel is planned for the lot next to the Boyd Theatre, at 19th and Chestnut streets. The $98 million project will offer two restaurants. The theater is undergoing renovations as well.

The 230-room Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia opened last October in the Architect's Building, a 24-story art deco landmark in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. The LEED-certified property offers 6,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

A still-unnamed 320-room hotel is under development at the American Commerce Center downtown. The 26-floor property will have a three-story lobby, a two-story glass-enclosed skybridge and a rooftop garden.

Hotel projects in the works near Philadelphia International Airport include a 140-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott, in the Airport Marketplace west of the facility; a 172-room Hilton Garden Inn, in Scott Plaza; and a 121-room Homewood Suites by Hilton, also in Scott Plaza.

The Residence Inn Center City by Marriott, a 269-suite property across from City Hall, completed a $9 million renovation last August.  

Meeting Hotels:
Properties in the Center City neighborhood, near the Pennsylvania Convention Center, include the 1,408-room Philadelphia Mar­riott Downtown; 581-room Loews Philadelphia Hotel; 498-room Courtyard Philadelphia Downtown; 445-room Crowne Plaza Philadelphia; 432-room Doubletree Philadelphia; 364-room Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia; 313-room Westin Philadelphia; 301-room Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia; 300-room Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia; 288-room Embassy Suites Philadelphia; 279-room Hilton Garden Inn Philadelphia Center City; 269-room Residence Inn Philadelphia Center City; 250-room Hampton Inn Philadelphia Center City-Convention Center; 230-room Kimpton Hotel Palomar; 201-room Le Méridien Philadelphia; 172-room Hyatt at the Bellevue; 98-room The Rittenhouse Hotel, and 84-room Inn at the League.

Convention Center: Pen­nsylvania Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 440,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 50; (215) 418-4700; paconvention.com

 Airport Transit: Philadelphia International Airport, about seven miles from Center City. Transfer cost to Center City by taxi, $28.50; by SEPTA regional rail line, $7

Taxes: Occupancy tax, 8.2%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 15.2%

Group Venue: Philadelphia International Records turns 40 next year, and to begin the celebration, the Broad Street-based label has converted The Sound of Philadelphia Souvenir Shop into The TSOP Experience -- a café by day and intimate nightclub that showcases local performers every Thursday night. The venue, available for private functions, also serves as a museum of memorabilia that celebrates songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees and founders of the label. The venue can accommodate up to 75 guests, with a flexible setup. A permanent stage doubles as a 12-by-18-foot dance floor, with music pumped through the house sound system or via a classic floor model jukebox. TSOP is available for rental after business hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday) or during business hours as the schedule permits. (215) 735-2660; gamble-huffmusic.com

CVB Services: Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, (215) 636-3300; philadelphiausa.travel

Place Your Bets
Following legalization of table games, the state's nine casinos could begin offering them this year.

Pittsburgh
Local Update: A 142-room Cambria Suites hotel is scheduled to open in December, adjacent to the Consol Energy Center, the new arena and home to the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise. The all-suite hotel promises a 10,000-square-foot full-service restaurant, a fitness center, an indoor pool and a spa.

The new Hyatt Place Hotel, North Shore, is under construction near PNC Park and Heinz Field. The $25 million project is slated to offer 178 guest rooms and approximately 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space, with a November opening planned.

Hotel Indigo, a 140-room property planned for the East Liberty area, is now scheduled to open in late 2011.

Two new SpringHill Suites properties opened this past April: a 115-room hotel across from the SouthSide Works retail and entertainment complex, and a 110-room property in Bakery Square, in East Liberty. The South Side property features meeting space that can accommodate up to 65 people, as well as an indoor pool and a fitness center. The Bakery Square hotel offers free access to an adjacent fitness center.

A $28 million, 180-room Residence Inn by Marriott opened in the North Shore district in early April. Suites come complete with full kitchens and 37-inch flat-panel LCD televisions. An indoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and billiards are among other highlights at the property.

 Meeting Hotels: Properties in the downtown district include the 712-room Hilton Pittsburgh; 616-room Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh; 596-room Omni William Penn Hotel; 402-room Pittsburgh Marriott City Center; 399-room Sheraton Station Square Hotel; 308-room Doubletree Hotel & Suites Pittsburgh City Center; 300-room Renaissance Pittsburgh; 185-room Fairmont Pittsburgh; 182-room Courtyard by Marriott Pittsburgh Downtown, and 143-room Hampton Inn & Suites Pittsburgh-Downtown. For a more complete listing of hotels in the city, go to mcmag.com/meeting-facilties.

Convention Center: David L. Lawrence Convention Center; exhibit space, 313,400 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 53; (412) 565-6000;  www.pittsburghcc.com

 Airport Transit: Pittsburgh International Airport, about 18 miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, about $40; by shuttle, about $20

 Taxes: Room tax, 7%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 14%

Group Venue: The Tamari Restaurant and Lounge, serving Asian/Latin fusion, has been winning accolades from local publications -- not to mention diners -- as one of the best new restaurants in town since its opening in Lawrenceville last year. The menu includes a varied selection of sushi, rolls, and cold and hot tapas -- the latter featuring combinations such as Peking duck quesadilla with serrano hoisin sauce and mozzarella. A second dining room upstairs, with its own bar and outdoor deck, is available for private functions of up to 30 people seated or 60 for receptions, including use of the deck if weather permits. (412) 325-3435; tamaripgh.com

CVB Services: VisitPitts­burgh, (412) 281-7711 or (800) 359-0758; visitpittsburgh.com