Near Sea-Tac International Airport between Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., Washington Mutual opened a 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 structures, including a meeting facility and two smaller guest buildings. The main meeting facility 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. There are 110 guest rooms and suites, all with laptop connectivity with high-speed Internet access, and a fitness center. Project developer and operator of the conference center is Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality Inc., which also manages the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, the Aljoya Conference Center, and the World Trade Center, all located in Seattle.

InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center Cleveland is scheduled to open on the Cleveland Clinic campus in April. It will feature 300 guest rooms including 23 suites, three restaurants, and a 35,000-square-foot conference center. The conference center will have a 500-seat amphitheater with teleconferencing capabilities, and an 8,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into three. It will have eight meeting rooms on one floor and 24-hour business services. Guest rooms will offer a dual-line phone and high-speed Internet access.

The Conference Center at Harvard Medical, now under construction, is accepting bookings for fall 2003. The venue, sited in Boston's Longwood medical area, is part of the Harvard Medical School's new research building. The conference center will have 8,500 square feet of meeting space, including a 480-seat amphitheater, seven meeting rooms for up to 130 people, and a rotunda for special events for as many as 160 people.

Benchmark Hospitality has taken over management of the Georgian Terrace Hotel, a historic 325-suite hotel on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. It has 16,000 square feet of meeting space, including the new 6,000-square-foot Atlanta Conference Center, with six conference rooms. In 2001, a $10 million renovation was completed, and it is now a member of the International Association of Conference Centers.

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

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

The Inter-Continental Houston, one block from Houston's Galleria, has 50,000 square feet of conference space, all equipped with fiber-optic CAT5 wiring. Its conference center can accommodate as many as 2,500 computers, all with high-speed Internet connectivity. The hotel's 9,500-square-foot exhibition center, the Discovery Center, has ceilings up to 30 feet high and electrical floor outlets every 30 feet. The area can be divided into two sections, each of which can accommodate 915 theater-style. The hotel has a total of 21 meeting rooms for events for as many as 1,300 people, including the 13,200-square-foot Legends Ballroom, a junior ballroom that can be divided into four, and more than 10,000 square feet of pre-function space.

Opening this spring on Seattle's Alaska Way, the Seattle Marriott Waterfront, adjacent to the 78,000-square-foot Bell Harbor International Conference Center on Pier 66, 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, including a 7,937-square-foot grand ballroom that can be divided into seven rooms, and an executive ballroom for 20.

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.


Durham, N.C.

SERIOUS, ROUND-THE-CLOCK LEARNING was on the agenda when I visited R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center at Duke University, Durham, N.C., for a leadership conference recently. This beautifully appointed, compact, exquisitely run center was a perfect fit for our group. Managed by Aramark Harrison Lodging, the facility has a well-appointed fitness center and access to the Duke Fitness Trail and the university's Robert Trent Jones — designed golf course — and it serves vast quantities of some of the best food we'd ever eaten in a conference center.

The center's 25 dedicated meeting and “teamrooms” can be tailored to a group's needs, and offer everything from flip charts to high-tech AV equipment, including computer projection, wireless microphones, and online access. Videoconferencing and satellite downlink communications are available. All but two of the meeting spaces had windows placed so they let in natural light without providing a distraction. The largest of the spaces were the U-shaped, 1,764-square-foot Glaxo-Wellcome and Kresge classrooms, which can seat up to 64. Smaller spaces range from the 1,156-square-foot University Room to the center's 19 teamrooms, which each seat 12.

All 111 guest rooms are less than a minute's walk from the meeting spaces.
Sue Pelletier