WHAT'S NEW

Washington, D.C.'s “Celebration of American Originals” starts Memorial Day. Events include the July 4 reopening of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, which have been closed since January 2000. The National Archives will display firsthand accounts of events that shaped the nation, including Thomas Jefferson's July 19, 1789, letter from Paris about the start of the French Revolution; a White House butler's description of a social event in the 1930s; and Lady Bird Johnson's audio account of the events surrounding President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas in 1963.

This past October, plans for a headquarters hotel to serve the new Washington Convention Center grew by about 200 rooms. Consultant analysis shows that the Washington Convention Center Authority could finance and build a 1,434-room headquarters hotel at 9th Street and Massachusetts Avenue. There is no date for ground breaking; the WCCA has yet to acquire the land. In mid-December, Marriott, which would manage the property, volunteered to kick in toward its cost. Meanwhile, a new Embassy Suites opened in the next block.

Baltimore is wrestling with convention center hotel issues. Maryland officials told the Baltimore Development Corp. that the state will not help to fund the $305 million, 752-room Hilton, which received final city approval September 19, unless the city guarantees convention groups as much as a 30 percent discount on room rates. The city has asked the state for $25 million. Baltimore's small supply of hotel rooms has kept room rates high, so the city has been disadvantaged in bidding for citywide conventions; planners say it will take a 30 percent discount to attract those conventions. Baltimore has about 5,000 hotel rooms within a square mile of its convention center that have an average tariff of $153 per night — $23 higher than the average in Philadelphia, which has twice as many hotel rooms. The city's development corporation has contracted with a hospitality consulting firm to study the type of discount the proposed hotel can offer groups.

FACILITIES UPDATE

THE DISTRICT

  • Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is putting the finishing touches on HOTEL PALOMAR WASHINGTON D.C., slated to open in April. The 335-room boutique hotel has 10,500 square feet of meeting space.

  • In November, Hilton Hotels opened the 384-suite EMBASSY SUITES AT THE CONVENTION CENTER on L Street. The hotel has 6,500 square feet of meeting space.

  • The $110 million CAPITOL HILL TOWER/COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT will open this spring at 140 L St. SE with a 204-suite tower and meeting space, and a 13-story, 344-unit co-op tower.

  • THE JEFFERSON, the 100-room landmark hotel four blocks from the White House, is now under management by the Kor Hotel Group; the property will be redesigned over the coming year. The hotel has 2,500 square feet of function space.



MARYLAND

  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts broke ground on two hotels next to each other and less than three miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The 203-room BWI SHERATON is slated to open in the fall with more than 4,600 square feet of meeting space. The 260-room BWI WESTIN is scheduled for a spring 2007 opening and will have nearly 7,300 square feet of meeting space. The hotels plan to share meeting space.

  • GAYLORD NATIONAL HOTEL AND CONVENTION CENTER in Prince George's County is under way. Along with 1,500 guest rooms, there will be 400,000 square feet of exhibition and meeting space, including a private marina, when it opens in 2008.

  • The 179-room COURTYARD BY MARRIOTT SILVER SPRING DOWNTOWN opened at 8506 Fenton St., the first hotel to be built in 30 years in downtown. The hotel has 1,500 square feet of event space.



VIRGINIA

  • Starwood anticipates a 2007 completion of the 319-room WESTIN ALEXANDRIA, with 18,000 square feet of meeting space. The 15-story hotel will be next to the new 2.5-million-square-foot U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters.

  • The WESTIN ARLINGTON GATEWAY is scheduled to open in the spring. The $60 million, 336-room hotel will have 10,000 square feet of meeting and function space, and wireless Internet access.

  • HYATT REGENCY RESTON has completed a $12 million renovation with a redesign of its ballrooms. The hotel's 518 guest rooms and 32,000 square feet of meeting space were refurbished.



ASK THE CVB

THE DISTRICT

WASHINGTON CONVENTION AND TOURISM CORP.
(202) 789-7023; www.washington.org
Hotel Tax: 14.5%

MARYLAND

ANNAPOLIS AND ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY CONFERENCE AND VISITORS BUREAU
(410) 280-0445, ext. 12
www.visit-annapolis.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12%

BALTIMORE AREA CVA
(800) 343-3468; www.baltimore.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY CONFERENCE & VISITORS BUREAU
(888) 925-8300
www.visitprincegeorges.com
Total Hotel Tax: 9%

VIRGINIA

ALEXANDRIA CVA
(800) 388-9119; www.FunSide.com
Hotel Tax: 10% plus $1 per room

ARLINGTON CONV. AND VISITORS SERVICE
(800) 296-7996
www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com
Hotel Tax: 11.75%

PHANTOM PLANNER

  • Getting groups around Washington is easier since the D.C. Circulator launched in July. Seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., 24 buses circle between downtown D.C. and Georgetown via K Street, Union Station, and the convention center; downtown via 7th and 9th streets, downtown hotels, the convention center, and the National Mall; and other routes. Tickets cost just $1.

  • The National Cathedral announced in October that it can no longer host outside groups in its event spaces because of the needs of its own programs. For the latest, see www.nationalcathedral.org.

  • Washington, D.C., and its environs have a wealth of places to meet. More than 100 countries have embassies, and many have facilities available to groups. Museums, monuments, historic homes, libraries, yachts, and government departments offer venues. Because there are so many choices and each has its own (sometimes onerous) usage requirements, the Washington Convention and Tourism Corp. has put together the Unique Spaces Guide; 74 pages list venues, room capacities, and how to get detailed information. Call (800) 635-MEET to request a copy, or download a pdf at www.washington.org. (Click on Meeting Planners and search for Unique Spaces Guide).