NEAR SEATAC International Airport between Seattle and Tacoma, Washington Mutual opened its new corporate leadership development center in December. Nestled on an 18-acre campus with a natural wetland, the Washington Mutual Leadership Center at Cedarbrook offers 107,000 square feet of space in three buildings, including a meeting facility and two smaller guest buildings. The main meeting building opens to a central lobby with informal sitting areas and a large, double-sided fireplace. The lobby connects to ground-floor dining facilities managed by an in-house cooking team. The second floor offers meeting and breakout rooms, including a board room and a 150-seat auditorium. The two smaller buildings house 110 guest rooms and suites and a fitness center. The rooms offer laptop connectivity with high-speed Internet access. Project developer and operator of the conference center is Columbia Hospitality Inc., a Seattle-based hospitality company whose managed properties include the Bell Harbor International Conference Center and the Aljoya Conference Center in Seattle, the Inn at Langley on Whidbey Island in Washington, the Resort at Deer Harbor and Friday Harbor House in Washington's San Juan Islands, and the World Trade Center Seattle.

Opening this spring on Seattle's Alaska Way, the Seattle Marriott Waterfront is adjacent to the 78,000-square-foot Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Pier 66. The hotel will have 358 guest rooms, most with private balconies. Meeting facilities will include 11,000 square feet of flexible meeting space for up to 700 people, including a 7,937-square-foot grand ballroom that can be divided into seven rooms, and an executive ballroom for 20.

In San Jose, Calif., Benchmark Hospitality has assumed management of the Silicon Valley Conference Center, a day meeting facility with 12,000 square feet of conference space close to San Jose International Airport. Its 17 meeting rooms can seat up to 500 attendees theater-style.

Benchmark also has taken over management of the Georgian Terrace Hotel, a 325-suite luxury hotel on historic Peachtree Street in midtown Atlanta. The hotel opened in 1911 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2001, a $10 million renovation was completed, and it is now a member of the International Association of Conference Centers. It has a total of 16,000 square feet of meeting space, including the newly opened 6,000-square-foot Atlanta Conference Center on the ground floor, which provides six conference rooms.

Dolce International has taken over management of Houston's 308-room Warwick Hotel in the Museum District, following a $23 million renovation that was completed last May. Dolce plans further enhancements that will bring The Warwick up to the standards of the International Association of Cenference Centers, including renovations to the 11th and 12th floors to accommodate conferences and conference dining. The first phase should be complete in June. The Warwick's 27,225 square feet of function space can seat 550 for meetings. The La Fontaine Ballroom has 6,750 square feet of space.

Dolce International also has completed the first phase of an $8 million renovation project on its first property in Germany, Dolce Am Kurpark in Bad Nauheim, near Frankfurt. Most of the 160 en-suite bedrooms have been completely upgraded and include ergonomic furniture, large workstations, and dual phone lines for Internet access. The 24 conference rooms in the main building have been upgraded with new technology, and five new breakout rooms have been created. The property's 8,000-square-foot Art Nouveau Theatre has a capacity of 786. The final phase of the project will be completed by spring 2003 and will include the addition of a spa and fitness center.

The Historic Conference Centres of Europe has added four new members, including a former church, a silk factory, and a ballroom. HCCE is an alliance of modern conference centers housed in historic buildings in European cities known for their architectural and cultural heritage. The four new members are the Athinais Conference Centre in Athens, Greece; Kaisersaal in Erfurt, Germany; Kongress Palais Kassel in Kassel, Germany; and The Pieterskerk in Leiden, Holland.

on location

Pembrokeshire, Wales

A NEW CONFERENCE CENTER is coming on line soon, made for the executive retreat or incentive group that requires quiet — and a stunning setting. The site: 600 acres of parkland overlooking Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on a pristine estuary in West Wales. The heart of the estate is Slebech Hall, built in 1760 and occupied by a family whose roots in the area go back to the 11th century. The 18th-century coach house is being transformed into a state-of-the-art conference facility with 26 guest rooms. There will be a spa and a health facility on site, as well as boating, archery, shooting, riding, and fishing. It will be a prime location for golfing incentives, with the courses of southeast Wales and Ireland (via ferry) within a reasonable day trip, and several local golf clubs nearby. Opening is scheduled for June 2004. Slebech Park is one and a half hours from Cardiff and four hours from London. To learn more, visit
Barbara L. Brewer