Despite strong capital environment, 1999 hotel report cautious According to a recent lodging industry report from New York-based Bear Stearns & Co. strong economic health - yet lagging overall optimism - is being felt this year in the hotel sector. According to Bear Stearns' 1999 Bear Stearns Lodging Almanac, a largely upbeat view of the economy and hotel sector is overshadowed by investors who are as yet unable to shake fears of a future downturn.

Bear Stearns' senior managing director Jason Ader notes that U.S. hotel firms today carry a fraction of the leverage they did in the late-1980s - the last time negative economic forces swept through the hotel industry. He adds that, despite a hearty 1999 thus far, hotel firms have been unable to gain back the value they lost in the capital market crunch last summer.

"Lodging stocks lost almost 40% of their value in 1998," Ader says. "And although the Bear Stearns All-hotel Index has risen 17.3% in 1999 - besting the Dow's 14.3% rise and the S&P's 7.3% gain - hotel issues have not even come close to recovering the ground they lost last year."

Ader predicts that hotels with established, recognized brands are most likely to shine through the current market conditions. Further, he notes that it would take a massive global economic downturn to destabilize fully the U.S. lodging market.

The 1999 Bear Stearns Lodging Almanac can be ordered by calling (212) 272-4320.

Grandvista Resorts breaks ground in Tunica, Miss. Branson, Mo.-based Grandvista Resorts LLC has begun construction on Grandvista Suites At Tunica, an 11-acre, Southern-style timeshare resort with 306 condominium-style villas. The project's first phase, due for completion in late fall, will include 32 units and a 16,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, complete with pool and spa, an exercise facility, a gift shop, and live entertainment.

Located at the northern tip of the Mississippi Delta, Grandvista Suites At Tunica will take shape as adjoining, mirror-image suites called "doubleshares." Each unit will be fully equipped with a kitchen, appliances, Southern decor and marble floors. The project adds to the company's list of three resorts in Branson, Mo., as well as one in Mesa, Ariz.

MBK begins work on Carlsbad Beach Hilton MBK Construction Ltd., a division of Irvine, Calif.-based MBK Real Estate Ltd., broke ground in April on Carlsbad Beach Hilton Garden Inn, a California-Mission style hotel located in Carlsbad, Calif. The 91,760 sq. ft., 162-room hotel will be owned by WaveCrest Resorts LLC under a license agreement with Hilton Inns Inc., and is due for completion next January.

The hotel is positioned on nearly 5 acres of beachfront property, a portion of which will be available for open-air dining and catered events. In addition to ocean views from 129 of its guestrooms, the Carlsbad Beach Hilton Garden Inn will feature resort-style recreational facilities including a fitness room, outdoor fireplace, and a swimming pool and spa.

First United completes seven-hotel financing New York-based First United Mortgage has closed seven hotel loans, ranging in types from limited service to full service, with an aggregate value of more than $40 million. The properties, located in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, contain approximately 900 rooms and are franchised by Radisson, Doubletree, Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn.

All of the construction loans had options to convert to fixed-rate permanent loans upon completion, with loan-to-value ratios ranging from 50% to 90%.

Landmark Chicago hotel reopens as 150th Crowne Plaza After an extensive $50 million renovation, the former Allerton Hotel has reopened as The Allerton Crowne Plaza - the 150th such property to carry the Crowne Plaza moniker. The hotel, designated in June 1998 as a Chicago landmark, will maintain its historical status - along with its noted Northern Italian Renaissance exterior - while at the same time providing modern versions of customer conveniences and amenities. The Allerton Crowne Plaza now features 443 rooms, including 60 suites, all with first-class amenities.

Originally designed by New York-based architectural firm Murgatroyd & Ogden, the 75-year-old building was one of the first high-rises to be erected on Michigan Avenue and was home to the Tip Top Tap, a popular lounge club in the 1940s and 1950s. The Renaissance Ballroom now takes the place of the club, which provides an upscale gathering venue with views of Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan. The property also boasts a two-story, atrium-style lobby as well as a 130-seat restaurant and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting and banquet space.

The restoration project team consists of Eckenhoff Saunders and Pepper Construction, both based in Chicago, as well as Atlanta-based Designers II. The Allerton Crowne Plaza is owned by FelCor Lodging LP, and is operated by Dallas-based Bristol Hotels & Resorts.