Developers putting brakes on new hotel projects

The number of new hotels under development declined sharply in the fourth quarter of 2000, and the slide will likely continue through the first part of this year, according to a report issued by Portsmouth, N.H.-based Lodging Econometrics.

Hotels in the active development pipeline — those under construction or in permitting — declined from 1,911 projects in third-quarter 2000 to 1,591 projects in the fourth quarter, a 17% drop. Preliminary reports from the first quarter of 2001 suggest that declines are continuing at a more moderate pace, according to the firm's first-quarter report.

Although the statistics aren't good news for developers, the decline may be beneficial to the hotel industry. The decline may result in higher demand for rooms, which would help boost average daily room rates and revenue per available room, according to the report.

Tighter lending standards and the slowdown in the economy are two reasons for the drop-off in new hotel development. Rising labor and construction costs also are preventing some projects from getting beyond the planning stages, the report stated.

The fourth quarter of 2000 also saw an increase in the number of projects placed on hold or cancelled outright. In addition, projects are taking longer to complete. The amount of time from project inception to completion has increased by up to 50% over the past 2.5 years.

Washington, D.C., gets hip to boutique hotel craze

Washington, D.C., will have four new boutique hotels by the first quarter of 2002. Bethesda, Md.-based LaSalle Hotel Properties has acquired four full-service hotels in the capital city, and will team with San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group to renovate the properties into high-end boutique hotels.

Two of the hotels will be repositioned in the fourth quarter, and renovations on two others will begin late this year in time for completion in the first quarter of 2002. Renovations will encompass all guestrooms and suites, lobbies, entrances, public corridors, meeting rooms, restaurants and bars.

The four hotels to be repositioned are: the 99-room Canterbury Hotel, 1733 N. Street NW; the 82-room Clarion Hampshire House Hotel, 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; the 137-room Quality Inn Hotel and Suites Downtown, 1315 16th St. NW; and the 184-room Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel and Suites, 1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW. LaSalle plans to rename each property. The Kimpton Group, one of the leading boutique hotel companies, will operate and manage the hotels.

A little old, a little new at the Waldorf-Astoria

Upcoming renovations to the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York will be confined to only one floor, but they will be the most significant alterations in the hotel's history. Renovations to the 18th floor will restore the art-deco luster to the Starlight Roof lounge and add a high-tech executive meeting center.

The first phase of the project, the renovations to the Starlight Roof, are scheduled to be completed April 15. The restoration will add lights and finishings to the wrap-around terrace, recreate the oversized widows that disappeared in earlier renovations and restore the decorative grilled ceiling. The foyer of the Starlight Roof also will be enlarged, and multiple entrances will be added.

The second phase, scheduled for completion on September 1, will create a high-tech executive meeting center with 13 adjoining meeting rooms featuring worldwide satellite links, 250 direct-dial telephone lines, Internet audio and video streaming, and fiber-optic Web broadcasting.

Former St. Louis train depot now home to Westin Hotel

A $60 million Westin Hotel, a brand of White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc., has opened in a renovated, century-old warehouse building in downtown St. Louis. The 224-room hotel will contain meeting rooms, ballrooms and the Clark Street Grill.

Rooms feature dual telephone lines, high-speed Internet access and the chain's trademarked Heavenly Beds, stacked with extra pillows. The hotel is located at Cupples Station, a former railroad depot containing several warehouses that will be converted into a mixed-use development.

PKF tapped to determine feasibility of hotel in Irving

The city of Irving, Texas, has hired San Francisco-based PKF Consulting to manage the request for proposals (RFP) process for the city's planned 450-room, full-service hotel. The project is targeted for a site adjacent to the 350,000 sq. ft. Irving Convention Center, which the city plans to build at the same time as the hotel.

PKF Consulting will perform the market feasibility study for the hotel project, evaluate the RFP responses and help the city find a developer for the hotel.

e-mail hotel and resort news to swebb@intertec.com