Although an economic slowdown and construction credit crunch has postponed hotel and facility projects all over the country, the Mid-Atlantic area, with just a few exceptions, is booming with new projects for the meetings market.
In D.C., the long-awaited Newseum opens this April on Pennsylvania Avenue. The largest gallery will be the 8,000-square-foot News History Gallery, which will display more than 350 historic newspaper front pages that span almost 500 years. In addition to galleries and exhibit halls that will be rentable after-hours for events, the Newseum will make space available to groups with a two-level conference center, 15 theaters, a food court, and a three-level restaurant — The Source by Wolfgang Puck.
Almost before people recover their equilibrium from that opening, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center will open at the end of April. As FIM went to press, finishing touches were being put on the behemoth, reputedly the largest convention resort on the Eastern seaboard. It includes 2,000 guest rooms, 470,000 square feet of convention space, and seven restaurants at National Harbor, the new 300-acre waterfront community located in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Ambitious plans to add a huge new wing to New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center went awry after a new analysis said it could cost almost three times its initial $1.7 billion price tag. Sharply reduced plans call for a much smaller addition to the center.
The Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel continues on track to a fall opening that will add 757 more first-class rooms to the city's inventory.
Atlantic City keeps evolving as it struggles to fight off gaming competition from New York and Pennsylvania casinos. Pinnacle Atlantic City will build a new $1.5 billion to $2 billion casino on the site of the former Sands Casino Hotel. The Borgata will open its Water Club tower with 800 rooms, Harrah's is opening a second tower with 941 rooms, and the Trump Taj Mahal is adding nearly 800 more in its second tower. The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort has put a $1 billion expansion plan on hold, but construction work will pick up this year on the $2 billion ocean-themed Revel casino at the end of the Boardwalk.
The Tropicana is on the upswing and coming back better than before after a tough year under Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp., which cut more than 900 jobs and watched service levels fall, ultimately losing its casino license in December (after less than a year as owner). Now under supervision by former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein, the resort and casino are fully operational and interim management is hiring and rehiring staff. The Tropicana is the largest hotel in New Jersey, at 2,129 rooms. There is no question of the Tropicana closing — Justice Stein is vetting at least two dozen candidates who are already in line to buy the casino hotel.
An early February breakthrough in the standoff between the Philadelphia City Council and building-trades unions over minority hiring should finally allow construction to proceed on the $700 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Convention Center Authority Chairman Buck Riley noted that further delay would drive up costs and jeopardize two large conventions that are counting on coming to an expanded center in 2011. Once it is complete, the expanded convention center will provide a million square feet of exhibit space and a total of 87 meeting rooms.
The Mid-Atlantic States/Facilities Update
MGM Mirage has announced plans to build a $4.5 to $5 million resort complex, the MGM Grand — Atlantic City, next to the Borgata. The 3,000-room hotel and casino, scheduled to open in 2012, will also house a convention center, restaurants, a 1,500-seat theater, and retail areas.
This past March, Benchmark Hospitality International opened the hotel and conference center at The Heldrich, the new $120 million property in New Brunswick. The mixed-use property contains 248 guest rooms, ballrooms, a conference center with an 80-seat amphitheater and 21 meeting rooms.
Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts has signed an agreement to open its first NYC property in 15 years, one block north of Ground Zero. The hotel will have 175 guest rooms, restaurants, a spa, and meeting rooms, and will take up 22 stories of an 80 story tower. It is slated for completion in 2011.
The $412 million Mount Airy Casino Resort, in the Pocono Mountains, opened this past November with 188 guest accommodations and 6,250 square feet of meeting space.
The new $170 million Lancaster convention center is about 30 percent complete and should to be finished by March 2009. It will have 220,000 square feet of meeting space with an attached 300-room Marriott hotel.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino near Pittsburgh will add a 200-room hotel, spa, and restaurants. A 350,000-square-foot casino, 3,000 more slot machines, and event facilities will bring the cost of the resort to about $155 million when it is completed in 2009.
Bedford Springs Resort reopened this past summer with 216 guest rooms and about 20,000 square feet of IACC-certified meeting facilities.
For its 75th anniversary, the Hotel Hershey is building a recreational campus featuring a new pool, an 18-hole grass putting course, and a year-round skating rink. Construction has begun on 10 cottages (48 new guest rooms).
Le Meridien Philadelphia, an historic 202-room hotel, will offer a 90-seat restaurant, a business center, 5,300 square feet of meeting space, and a grand ballroom located on the third floor when it opens in late 2009.
The Liaison Capitol Hill, an Affinia Hotel, formerly a Holiday Inn, opens April 1 following a $12 million renovation of the hotel's 343 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Marriott International Inc. is discussing with city officials plans to build two additional hotels just north of its future headquarters hotel near the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The Courtyard and Residence Inn properties would be adjacent to a planned $550 million, 1,150-room Marriott across the street from the convention center, slated to open in 2012.
January saw the opening of Kimpton's 241-room Hotel Monaco Alexandria in the heart of Old Town, with 5,045 square feet of meeting space.
Another Kimpton product, Hotel Palomar Arlington, opened in November 2007 with 154 rooms in Waterview Towers. The hotel has more than 3,200 square feet of meeting space.
Westin Alexandria opened this past November with 319 guest rooms and suites and 20,000 square feet of function space.
The Conference Center at the Williamsburg Lodge opened in September 2006, while restoration of the main building, including the lobby, restaurant, and 323 guest rooms, came online as of January 2007. Just one piece remained to complete the massive $220 million renovation and expansion project: a spa and fitness center opened for the summer 2007 season with 12 treatment rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, steam rooms, whirlpools, and three lounges.
Westfields Marriott in Chantilly completed the first phase of a $10 million property renovation this past September with the makeover of its 15,000-square-foot grand ballroom.
Westin Virginia Beach Town Center opened in December 2007 with 236 guest rooms and 120 residences. The hotel has an executive floor and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront has emerged from a multimillion-dollar conversion of the former Ramada Plaza Resort. The new Wyndham has 267 guest rooms and suites and 16,000 square feet of meeting space.
A 149-room Hilton Garden Inn opened in November less than a mile from the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
Dulles International and Reagan National airports have installed wireless Internet service in all public areas, including parking garages. For WiFi information see www.mwaa.com/airportservices.
Tired of trying to gather attendees at crowded airports? Only two airlines fly into Atlantic City International — Delta and Spirit. They run 14 flights into and out of the city every day. It may limit your airlift choices, but it will concentrate attendee arrivals and departures for the right size group heading to Atlantic City.
NYC & Company has partnered with participating hotels to reduce Sunday room rates by 20 percent to 30 percent when guests either stay over Sunday or arrive early for weekday meetings.
Ask the CVB
Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Convention & Visitors Bureau
(410) 280-0445, ext. 12
Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association
(410) 659-7300, (800) 343-3468
Prince George's County CVB
(301) 925-8300, (888) 925-8300
Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
NYC & Company
Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
(412) 281-7711,(800) 359-0758
Valley Forge CVB
(800) 441-3549, ext 7990
Lehigh Valley CVB
Pennsylvania Dutch CVB (Lancaster County)
Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
(703) 838-4200, (800) 388-9119
Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
(703) 228-0888, (800) 296-7996
Washington Convention and Tourism Corp.
Behind an elaborate art deco facade, the Perelman Building (across from the main Philadelphia Museum of Art) underwent extensive renovation and opened last September as the new home of the Costume and Textiles, Prints, Drawings, Photographs, and Modern and Contemporary Design galleries. Venues for events include a marble entry hall, a skylit galleria that can accommodate a reception for 300, and an outdoor sculpture garden. The main museum has multiple event rooms that can hold a meeting of 30 or a reception for 1,000 people. (215) 684-7310, www.philamuseum.org/perelman/
The Desmond Tutu Center opened in December on the campus of the General Theological Seminary at 180 10th Avenue, a city block of open green space ringed by historic buildings in New York's Chelsea neighborhood. The conference center offers more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space in seven event rooms, including the spectacular Refectory Grand Ball Room. Sixty restored guest rooms put attendees close to shops, restaurants, Madison Square Garden, and the Theater District. The center offers discounts to not-for-profit organizations. (646) 717-9753; www.ahl-tutucenter.com/
In Valley Forge, just outside Philadelphia, the $100 million American Revolution Center at Valley Forge National Park will be the first museum to tell the whole story of liberating the upstart U.S. colonies from England's domination. The new building will serve as a welcome center, an auditorium, and a showcase for the National Center for the American Revolution's collection, which includes 60 percent of existing Revolutionary War items. Scheduled to open in 2008, it is being constructed with a 5,000-square-foot Great Hall for group events. A conference center is planned as soon as possible after the opening. (610) 975-4939; www.americanrevolutioncenter.org
At Virginia's Living Museum in Newport News, a new amphitheater overlooks Deer Park Lake and can be rented for group events. 757-534-7402