Recession? Tell that to the meetings industry in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District. Are facilities spending like there's no tomorrow? More likely, they're investing wisely in infrastructure now during a down period in anticipation of a welcome recovery slowly getting under way. Meeting organizers take note.

The $786 million Pennsylvania Convention Center expansion in Philadelphia is about 30 percent complete and expected to open in the first quarter of 2011 with about a million square feet of exhibit and meeting space, a 60 percent increase.

In late September Pittsburgh hosted nearly two dozen world leaders and showed off the eco-friendly David L. Lawrence Convention Center during the two-day Group of Twenty (G-20) summit.

Funding for the new 1,167-room, $537 million Marriott Marquis, adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C., has been approved. Expected opening date is the first quarter of 2013.

A third Kalahari Hotel Waterpark and Resort planned for Celebrate Virginia off I-95 will site a waterpark, 700 guest rooms, and a 100,000-square-foot conference center next to the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. A December 2010 opening is hoped for.

In West Virginia, the Greenbrier shows signs of returning to the elite hotel it once was. The PGA Tour has returned championship golf to the Greenbrier for the first time in 15 years. New owners have said they would restore the shine to a resort and 721-room hotel that once hosted presidents and royalty. New meeting space and a casino will be built at the site of a once-secret underground bunker built during the Cold War to house members of Congress.

Facilities Update

The District

  • The 332-room Willard InterContinental, with its prime location on the inaugural parade route, made sure its countenance was shiny for the event. An expanded lobby and a new Scotch bar within the Round Robin, with an impressive collection of single malt whiskies, were in place.

  • The Connecticut Avenue Collection of the Hilton Washington, Marriott Wardman Park, and Omni Shoreham are partnering to provide midsized conventions more than 3,600 guest rooms, 200,000 square feet of meeting space, 124 meeting rooms, 180,000 square feet of exhibit space, and eight restaurants. For the right sized groups, the Collection will run free shuttles between the hotels and offer complimentary meeting space and welcome receptions.

  • The 1,119-room Hilton Washington hotel is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation in discrete stages. The hotel has 110,000 square feet of elegant meeting and event rooms near the Washington Convention Center.

Maryland

  • Hilton Hotels recently opened a dual-branded development in Silver Spring that has 149 Hampton rooms on the lower eight floors and 90 Homewood Suites above them. The hotels share a lobby, with separate check-in desks and dining areas for each brand. Guests of both hotels use the meeting rooms, business center, pool, and workout room.

  • Originally part of a 1906 railroad terminal, the 202-room Hotel Monaco Baltimore opened to visitors in July. The Monaco features Tall Rooms with 96-inch king-sized beds, extra-long giraffe-print robes, high ceilings, and raised showerheads. There are six separate meeting rooms.

  • Baltimore is in line to add 300 medium-price rooms a block from the Inner Harbor when a Hyatt Place and a Summerfield Suites come to town.

New Jersey

  • Harrah's Resort Atlantic City has a $500 million expansion, including 960-room Waterfront Tower, giving it a total of 2,590 guest rooms and more casino space.

Pennsylvania

  • ARCWheeler has unveiled plans to purchase, rehab, and add a 250-room Kimpton Monaco Hotel to the 80-year-old Boyd Theatre in downtown Philadelphia. The art deco theater can seat as many as 2,500 people.

  • The new 230-room Hotel Palomar Philadelphia began taking reservations in August following $92.5 million in renovations to the former Architects Building. It is Kimpton's first venture in Philadelphia.

  • Starwood Hotels has announced plans for a 92-room Four Points by Sheraton hotel with meeting rooms and a penthouse ballroom just a block from Philadelphia's convention center.

  • The 229-suite Embassy Suites Philadelphia/Valley Forge has had a $10 million transformation and includes 5,000-square-feet of event space.

  • The Radisson Valley Forge in King of Prussia is making in-room upgrades to the tune of more than $1.5 million.

  • Dolce Valley Forge, on DeKalb Pike in King of Prussia, recently completed a $20 million renovation. The 327-room hotel now has 22 conference rooms and a new 7,200 square-foot ballroom.

  • The 253-room Crowne Plaza Reading opened in March 2009 after a $10 million conversion from a Sheraton. The hotel offers eight meeting rooms with nearly 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center is finishing a two-year makeover, with the hotel projected to be open by year's end. The hotel has 190 guest rooms and 16,000 square feet of meeting space. The new Monroeville Convention Center opened in September next door to the hotel with 100,000 square feet of exhibition space capable of hosting groups up to 5,400 people. A reuse of a former retail store, the Center replaces the Monroeville ExpoMart.

  • In Pennsylvania Dutch country the new Lancaster County Convention Center and adjoining 300-room Marriott at Penn Square hotel debuted this past April. The buildings have 90,000 square feet of meeting space.

Virginia

  • The $203 million Virginia Beach Convention Center, completed two years ago, has more than 500,000 square feet of meeting space and is the largest meeting facility in the Hampton Roads region. Exhibit space includes a 150,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall. There is more than 28,000 square feet of meeting room space and a 31,000-square-foot ballroom.

  • The 340-acre Salamander Resort & Spa is slated to open in spring 2010 in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. The 168-room Middleburg resort will have 13 meeting rooms.

  • The 1924 George Washington Hotel in downtown Winchester, closed since the mid-1970s, reopened in April 2008. The 90-room GW has 6,600 square feet of conference space, including the grand ballroom that accommodates 300 people.

  • A new 250-room Hilton Garden Inn across from the Greater Richmond Convention Center opened in February 2009. It has more than 7,900 square feet of function space and can accommodate up to 550 people.

  • The 250-room Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Norfolk recently completed a $3.5 million guest room, lounge, and public space renovation. Twenty-three meeting rooms provide 24,355 square feet of event space, including a 70-seat amphitheater and two large ballrooms.

  • Hyatt Arlington in Rosslyn has added 13 guest rooms in a multimillion-dollar renovation, bringing the 317 guest rooms up to date and adding ergonomic workstations, free Internet access, safes, and refrigerators to guest rooms, as well as a new restaurant and a new lounge and fitness center.

  • In time for the inauguration in January, Starwood Hotels & Resorts opened the 136-room Aloft Dulles Airport North. The hotel has a boardroom and an adjacent conference center operated by PM Hospitality Services.

Trip Tips

  • The Capitol Visitors Center opened in December 2008 as the new main entrance to the U.S. Capitol. There is no charge to tour the exhibits and watch the informational film.

  • Gaylord National Resort has a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes between the conference resort entrance and Ronald Reagan National Airport baggage claim. One-way is $18, round trip $32.

  • The Baltimore Convention Center is offering perks like a free day, discounts, and especially flexible terms to midsize groups booking meetings within an 18-month window.

Ask the CVB

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 225-5745, (215) 636-3304
www.philadelphiausa.travel

Visit Pittsburgh
(800) 359-0758, (412) 281-7711
www.visitpittsburgh.com

Valley Forge CVB
(800) 441-3549, ext 7990 (610)834-1550
www.valleyforge.org

Lehigh Valley CVB
(800) 747-0561
www.lehighvalleypa.org

Pennsylvania Dutch CVB (Lancaster County)
(800) PA-Dutch
www.padutchcountry.com

Washington, D.C.

Destination DC
(202) 789-7000
www.washington.org

Maryland

Annapolis and Anne Arundel County CVB
(410) 222-7000
www.visit-annapolis.org

Baltimore Area CVA
(800) 343-3468, (410) 659-7300
www.baltimore.org

Prince George's County CVB
(888) 925-8300, (301) 925-8300
www.visitprincegeorges.com

Virginia

Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
(800) 388-9119, (703) 838-4200
www.FunSide.com

Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
(800) 296-7996, (703) 228-0888
www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com

Roanoke Valley CVB
(540) 342-6025
www.visitroanokeva.com/

Virginia Beach CVB
(800) 700-7702
www.vbfun.com

Special Venues

  • In Pennsylvania, Wheatland, the Lancaster estate of President James Buchanan, is an outdoor venue of 4.25 acres of period gardens for an event in temperate weather. (717) 392-8721, ext. 222, or director@wheatland.org

  • An elegant 1818 mansion, Decatur House on Lafayette Square, across from the White House, offers a carriage house, courtyard, and parlors for groups of 10 to 450 guests. (202) 842-0917, www.decaturhouse.org/rentals

  • The Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center is around the corner from trendy stores and restaurants in the heart of Georgetown. It has 146 guest rooms with more than enough hard-wired and wireless gadgets to please a geek. Meeting rooms range from boardroom size to a grand ballroom for events of 10 to 1,600 people. (301) 820-6120, www.ahl-georgetown.com

  • The Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach was dedicated in November 2007 and offers dazzling space for gatherings. Your group can rent not only the acoustically correct 1,300-seat performance hall, but also a 125-seat studio theater for smaller presentations. Multiple classrooms and the Wood Founders Room offer plenty of space for breakouts and banquets. (757) 385-2536, www.sandlercenter.org

  • In May 2008, Atlantic City's Tropicana Casino and Resort opened its Cuba attractions: The Havana Rooftop Slots and The Rumba Lounge, where the sights, scents, and sounds of Havana city streets prevail. Then in September, the resort doubled the Caribbean magic by opening Palm Cove premium slots. Off the Palm Walk in the South Tower, Tropicana brought the Temptations from Motown to start the action in its new Palm Cove high-limit slots parlor. Tropicana has 2,125 rooms and more than 122,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. (609) 344-2925, www.tropicana.net