W really likes New York. The brand, a division of White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide Inc., plans to open its fourth W hotel in the Big Apple in November at the corner of Park Avenue South and 17th Street in the northeast corner of Union Square Park. The 270-room hotel, which will occupy a former 20-story office building, will be owned by New York-based Related Companies LP.

The Beax-Arts style structure, which opened in 1911 as the Guardian Life Building, will be renovated to include a light-filled conservatory offering views of the park, a staircase leading to a two-story ballroom and W's living-room-style lobby. Each room will feature a 27-inch television, high-speed Internet access and high-speed dataport connectivity.

The Union Square hotel will occupy a neighborhood known for its restaurants, bars and shops. Starwood also plans to develop a fifth W hotel at Times Square.

Northpoint Development Group to open Radisson in Savannah Alpharetta, Ga.-based Northpoint Development Group will construct a 6-story, 150-room Radisson hotel in Savannah, Ga. The hotel marks Minneapolis-based Radisson Hotels and Resorts' return to Savannah. In 1994, the owners of the 385-room Radisson on General McIntosh Boulevard reflagged the property, the only Radisson in the city, as a Marriott.

The $14 million project, at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Montgomery Street, originally was slated to be an AmeriSuites franchise, but Northpoint Development Group switched to a full-service format, including amenities such as a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and fitness room. The hotel is expected to open in early 2002.

In another Atlanta renovation project, Dallas-based Foresthills Hotels and Resorts plans a $22 million restoration of the neighboring Days Inn. Upon completion of the renovations, the hotel will be renamed The Carlton, its original name. According to Foresthills, the 90-room hotel will be the Atlanta's only small luxury hotel.

Marriott International also recently sold nine hotels for $100 million - one Residence Inn, two Courtyard by Marriott hotels, three SpringHill Suites and three TownPlace Suites - to Orlando, Fla.-based CNL Hospitality Corp. Five of the hotels are open and the other four are under construction. Marriott will operate the hotels, which are located in Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

After a slow start, hotel transactions in the first half of the year picked up considerably, according to Mineola, N.Y.-based HVS International. There were 70 major transactions from January to June, compared with 118 sales during all of 1999, according to the global consulting and appraisal firm. The firm currently is tracking more than 30 pending sales.

Portfolio sales, mainly of limited-service properties, have accounted for more than half of the transactions so far this year. The average per-room sale price was $131,000, down from last year's record average price of $142,000. Big hotel sales during the first half of the year included the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco and the Marriott Chicago Downtown.

Schrager aims to break the boutique mold At the New York University hotel conference in June, Ian Schrager said a hotel doesn't have to be small to fit into the "boutique" category. Credited with starting the boutique hotel craze in New York 16 years ago with the opening of the 113-room Morgans, his New York-based Ian Schrager Hotels LLC is set to back up that statement with the Oct. 3 opening of the 1,000-room Hudson. Occupying a 1920s-era building that underwent a three-year, $125 million renovation, the hotel will have many of the eccentric features of his smaller New York properties, which also include The Royalton and The Paramount.

The hotel is calling the room rates "cheap chic." Rates start at $95 per night, which is mighty cheap for New York. But don't get too excited. That rate is for single rooms. Standard rooms are listed at $175, superior rooms at $275 and deluxe studios at $425. The hotel, located at 57th Street between 8th and 9th avenues, also will offer glass-enclosed penthouses, each with an indoor greenhouse and an outdoor rooftop garden. Prices for those rooms are "available upon request."

What's different about the Hudson? The restaurant is called the "Hudson Cafeteria." Modeled in part after the Automats of the 1940s and 1950s, the cafeteria will have an eat-in kitchen, and communal wood tables and benches. The guest rooms are designed to feel like a private cabin in a yacht or ocean liner, with their paneled walls and floors, white curtains, stainless steel tables and aluminum chairs. With its ivy-covered brick walls and 45-foot trees, the hotel's private park is meant to be a refuge from the busy New York streets, but it also features some surreal items - 500-gallon watering cans and a 30-foot tall pitchfork. The park will offer concerts, recitals and other events throughout the year.

"We are passionate about continuing to reinvent the hotel, coming up with some breakthrough concepts as well as going into uncharted territory," according to Schrager. He adds, "Hudson is my first hotel in New York City in over 10 years, and I'm excited to say, I think it's our best yet."

Other features of the Hudson include:

- The Agua Bathhouse, a two-story holistic spa with 16 treatment rooms, a yoga studio and a multi-purpose gymnasium.

- The Hudson Bar, which features a glass floor lit from beneath, carved-wood African stools and Louis XV furniture.

- A library containing floor-to-ceiling book shelves, a fireplace, a billiard table and modern flat-panel computer screens on custom-made desks.

- Guest rooms offering entertainment centers, high-speed Internet access, data port connections, laptop computers and a DVD library with 1,500 on-demand titles.