The most welcome meeting news along the mid-Atlantic coast was announced by Hilton Hotels in September: Construction is finally under way on a long-awaited convention center hotel, the Hilton Baltimore, designed to be a 20-story edifice in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Attached by skybridge to the Baltimore Convention Center and adjacent to Camden Yards, the hotel's anticipated opening date is summer 2008. Organizations and event planners, however, aren't waiting to see it before they book. The Institute for Supply Management, based in Tempe, Ariz., plans to hold its annual convention at the BCC in May 2008, a booking only possible because the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association could offer a big block of rooms for the four-day meeting. The Associated Professional Sleep Societies has also booked for 2008 and will bring 4,000 attendees, and the Academy of General Dentistry will be coming with 3,000 attendees in 2009. The 757-room hotel will have a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, as well as 20,000 square feet of function space, a fitness center, a business center, and retail space.
Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority officials in mid-November were struggling to hold the expansion cost of the center under its $700 million budget in light of higher real estate costs in Center City. Architectural plans that call for an additional 376,000 square feet of convention space and a grand new entrance along North Broad were estimated as high as $785 million this summer. The city redevelopment authority has made offers for all of the properties wanted for the project, and hopes to have the land acquired by year end. No construction start has been scheduled.
Something new in Washington, the DC Circulator will bring a smile to the faces of planners trying to manage logistics for a meeting in the District. It launched in July to provide quick, direct access to some of the most popular points in the city. From 8 a.m. until 9 p.m., 365 days a year, 29 buses painted red, white, black, and yellow link downtown with Georgetown, the convention center, hotels, restaurants, the Kennedy Center, and the Southwest Waterfront (at the National Mall). The cost of a ticket is $1.
Last October, plans for a headquarters hotel at the new Washington Convention Center gained about 200 rooms. Marriott will manage the property.
Fueled by an 87 percent occupancy rate for 2005 and a stepped-up economy, by the end of 2007 New York City will add nearly 5,000 new hotel rooms in new and expanded properties to its current inventory of 70,723.
One of those properties is a real New York icon: The Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Central Park is being restored and divided into hotel rooms and private apartments. The property, now a Fairmont hotel, was closed last year for a $350 million renovation. It will open with 182 private residences and 282 hotel rooms, magnificently restored public spaces, shops, and restaurants. The Plaza reopens in 2007, just in time to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center has opened with a 56,500-square-foot exhibit hall and 40,000 square feet of meeting and function space. When the second phase of the project is completed in 2007, the convention center's square footage will grow to 516,522.
Also in Virginia, the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center opened last year on the school's campus at Blacksburg. This 147-room hotel and adjoining meeting facility is owned by Virginia Tech and managed by Hilton Hotels. High-speed wired and wireless network access is available in the inn and in the 23,705 square feet of the conference center.
In Baltimore, the newest attraction on the Inner Harbor is a Comics Museum, with all the memorabilia and silliness of the past 50 years of laughable characters and heroic endeavors. Group tours are already coming out grinning.
Kimpton opened its seventh District hotel this summer, the 335-room Hotel Palomar Washington D.C. After a $32 million renovation, the Dupont Circle hotel offers 10,500 square feet of meeting space.
Wyndham City Center Hotel at M Street and New Hampshire Avenue will become the Renaissance M Street in January after an $18.5 million renovation. The hotel will have 355 rooms, and will begin a refurbishment of all guest rooms and public areas, as well as an upgrade of its meeting space, upon the rebranding.
The Hyatt Dulles completed a $4.2 million renovation in 2005. The hotel offers 316 executive suites and 7,300 square feet of function space.
The InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore was converted from the five-star Harbor Court Hotel and opened this spring overlooking the Inner Harbor. The hotel is part of a mixed-use property that includes an eight-story tower with 195 guest rooms. The hotel has 8,000 square feet of function space.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts will soon have two new airport hotels — a Sheraton and an adjacent Westin less than three miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The 201-room Four Points by Sheraton BWI opened this fall with more than 4,600 square feet of meeting space in eight rooms. The 260-room BWI Westin is scheduled to open in spring 2007 with nearly 7,300 square feet of meeting space.
Work started in September on a $75 million overhaul of the New Carrollton Hotel just inside the Capital Beltway. It will become a Sheraton Four Points surrounded by new retail space, restaurants, and office condominiums expected to be finished by spring.
Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center in Ellicott City is converting 117 guest rooms to 42 junior suites, four king suites, and a concierge lounge, thus reducing the guest room count to 171 rooms and suites. There is 40,000 square feet of meeting space.
Ask the CVB
Atlantic City's Borgata Resort has completed a $200 million expansion, adding casino space, two nightclubs, retail space, and restaurants. A second phase of expansion will consist of an 830,000-square-foot tower, adding 800 guest rooms and suites, indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and fitness center, meeting space, and shops. The $347 million tower should be completed in late 2007.
District of Columbia
Donald Trump's casino company will spend $110 million upgrading its three Atlantic City gambling hotels. It will build an indoor promenade at Trump Taj Mahal, a new restaurant at Trump Plaza, and will renovate meeting and convention space and add a new restaurant at Trump Marina. The company spent $32 million in 2005 on room renovations and other improvements at the three properties. In June, construction began on an 800-room hotel tower at Trump Taj Mahal.
Completion of The Quarter at Tropicana included the 502-room Havana Tower, boosting the resort's total room count to 2,127; and 45,000 square feet of new meeting space, which brings its function space to 122,000 square feet.
Congress Hall, a historic, 106-room beachfront hotel in Cape May that was restored and reopened three years ago, last year added Harrison Conference Center for a total of 5,500 square feet of meeting space.
The W Hotel in Hoboken is building a hotel-condominium tower that is scheduled for completion in early 2007. There will be 225 hotel rooms on the first 16 floors of a 25-story building, along with 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Heldrich is due to open in March in New Brunswick's Heldrich Plaza among condominiums, offices, and retail space. The hotel will have 248 guest rooms and suites, 24 conference rooms, a ballroom that can seat 500 guests, 50,000 square feet of conference space, a restaurant and lounge, and a health club and spa.
The 750-room Millennium Broadway Hotel, in the heart of the theater district, has an IACC-approved 110,000-square-foot conference center with 37 meeting rooms. The hotel recently completed restoration of the 102-year-old Hudson Theatre, which is available for events. It seats up to 750 people. Restoration of the theater uncovered Tiffany mosaics, which have been restored and lend a particularly glamorous note to an event held there.
At the Park Central New York, in midtown, across from Carnegie Hall, a $65 million renovation has added to function and meeting space. For groups larger than the 12 to 14 who will fit in the Empire Boardroom and smaller than the 800 who can fill the combined ballroom and forum, try the mezzanine level. It offers 6,000 square feet of new meeting and event space in 12 meeting rooms, three boardrooms, and exhibit space. The Park Central has 935 guest rooms, 190 concierge-level rooms, and 19 suites.
The 1926 Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia, is converting its top eight floors to 100 condominiums. A $15 million renovation will upgrade the lobby, grand ballroom, Crystal Ballroom, and mezzanine level. A fitness center and club lounge will be added as the property converts to the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel Philadelphia. Renovations are scheduled to be complete in February.
The 150-room Omni Hotel overlooking Independence National Historical Park opened a 6,500-square-foot spa and fitness center in September. The Philadelphia hotel has four meeting rooms and a restaurant.
In July, Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced plans to develop a W Hotel and Residences in Center City Philadelphia, across from the convention center. It will have 250 guest rooms and suites, 11,000 square feet of meeting space, and a 6,500-square-foot spa. A 2009 opening is anticipated.
Crowne Plaza Valley Forge in King of Prussia went completely smoke-free this year, the first in the area to do so. Before the smoking ban went into effect, staff swept through the hotel's 225 rooms, restaurant, lounge, Liberty Conference Center and 130-seat amphitheater, and two ballrooms to deep clean, fumigate, and disinfect every surface.
Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains has completed its Executive Conference Center, which doubles the resort's meeting space to 20,000 square feet.
The 335-room Westfields Marriott in Chantilly will begin a major guest room and ballroom renovation in 2007. The Washingtonian and Grand Dominion ballrooms will get new carpeting, chandeliers and sconces, ceiling tiles, and airwalls. The ballrooms and public space surrounding them should be updated by August. The guest room renovations will begin in December 2007 with planned completion in March 2008. Westfields Marriott offers 28 meeting rooms and 45,000 square feet of meeting space to accommodate up to 1,200 meeting guests.
The Hampton Roads Convention Center fits so perfectly into its site on Chesapeake Bay because its design seems to give it the energy to either sail away or perhaps soar like sea birds. The center includes 35 meeting spaces with capacity for up to 14,000 delegates, including a ballroom with banquet seating for 2,000 and a 108,000-square-foot exhibit hall that divides into three sections. A new 295-suite Hammons Embassy Suites connects to the convention center and has meeting spaces of its own.
The former Holiday Inn Richmond has opened as the 282-room Crowne Plaza Richmond West after a $1 million renovation. A new business center has been opened convenient to nearly 10,000 square feet of function space.
In Charleston, an eight-year, $55,000 project to aid guests and attendees is coming to fruition. Large, colorful signs are appearing at strategic intersections and along important routes to point people to the Civic Center Complex (the Civic Center, Coliseum, the Little Theater, and the Charleston Convention Center) or to malls and shopping, hotels, and attractions. Right now, about 20 signs are in place, but that will increase to more than 200 when the project is completed in the next few months.
Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau
Total Hotel Tax: 10% downtown Wilmington, 8% in the rest of the state
Washington, D.C., Convention & Tourism Corp.
(202) 789-7000; www.washington.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14.5%
Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitors Bureau
Total Hotel Tax: 12%
Baltimore Area Convention& Visitors Association
(800) 343-3468, (410) 659-7300
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%
Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
(888) 228-4748, (609) 348-7100
Total Hotel Tax: 12% + $2 per room, per night
NYC & Company
Total Hotel Tax: 13.624% + $3.50 per room, per night
Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 359-0758, (412) 281-7711
Total Hotel Tax: 14%
Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
(800) 225-5745; www.pcvb.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14%
Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau
Alexandria Convention & Visitors Bureau
Arlington Convention & Visitors Service
Total Hotel Tax: 9.75%
Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau
Total Hotel Tax: 11.5%
For reasonably priced rooms in New York City, winter — January through March — is best for bargains, with summer (especially July and August) second best. Fall is the busiest and most expensive season, except for Christmas, but November is quiet and affordable (except for parade-route hotels at Thanksgiving).
In Charleston, W.V., renovation of the 750-seat Little Theater is under way, putting it out of commission for the next few months. But three other facilities in the same complex provide more than 18 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 500 people. The Great Hall offers 50,086 square feet of exhibit space, and the Coliseum has 30,500 square feet of exhibit space.
Want the latest weather forecast for D.C.? On the Web at www.wunderground.com/forecasts/DCA.html, you'll find five-day forecasts with high and low temperatures, plus wind, cloudiness, and the chance of precipitation. Or, pull up the same info for Baltimore, Roanoke, the Big Apple, or the beach at Atlantic City.
The redesigned Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Del., has opened an event facility with 87,000 square feet of space for meetings, conventions, and events. The $7 million makeover of the former arts center has created a hall of two enormous curving walls leading from an atrium lobby into Governors' Hall. That space adjoins the 22,000-square-foot Wilmington Hall, an all-black exhibit space that offers a dramatic backdrop for shows. Chase Center has 10 conference and meeting rooms, a 260-seat theater, a seminar room, and ballroom space that seats up to 1,000 people. (302) 425-3929, (888) 862-2787; www.centerontheriverfront.com
Let attendees experience a cypress swamp, an Appalachian cove, the Chesapeake Bay underwater, or a limestone cave at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. The Exhibit Gallery can accommodate up to 300 for a banquet, 800 for a reception. Smaller spaces can hold from 45 to 80 people. (757) 595-1900; www.valivingmuseum.org