What's New

In Washington, D.C., the cherry trees have dropped their blossoms, but much more is coming to entice planners to take a new look at the nation's capital. Washington tourism officials declared 2007 the year to celebrate “Shakespeare in Washington.” Galleries, museums, and hotels are joining in with their own displays or offering packages that include dinner, lodging, and a theater performance.

Presciently, two popular theaters more than doubled their seating capacities in 2007 with new playing spaces. Arlington's Signature Theatre moved into a new home in January with two flexible black box spaces — one holding 299 seats and the other 99 seats. In October, the Shakespeare Theatre Company will expand with the opening of the Harman Center for the Arts, so facilities in booming Penn Quarter will comprise the new 776-seat Sidney Harman Hall and the existing 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre.

Finally, in a town full of museums and monuments, the Fourth Estate will get its own home in September when the Newseum opens at 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. More than a dozen galleries detail the history of news reporting and how media have covered important events of the past century. Even Wolfgang Puck has contributed, calling his onsite restaurant “the Source.”

Elsewhere, from upstate New York to the southern beaches of Virginia, the Atlantic Coast is decking its shorelines with resplendent new and expanded convention centers, and of course, the essential convention headquarters hotels.

This past October, the Big Apple broke ground on a $1.7 billion dollar expansion of the Javits Center that will increase its space by 45 percent when it opens in 2010. Upstate, the Albany Convention Center Authority has been laying the groundwork for a convention center since January 2006 and expects construction to begin in spring 2008.

The biggest project on deck in Baltimore is the Hilton Convention Center Hotel. The $300 million-plus, 757-room project is set to open in August 2008. In Washington, D.C., the new convention center is hosting nearly twice as many meetings as the old center, and a new Convention Center Marriott Hotel is under way.

Meanwhile, big conventions are returning to the Pennsylvania Convention Center now that union troubles are resolved and an expansion is in sight. The city redevelopment authority is acquiring land for the $700 million expansion project, which is scheduled for completion in late 2009.

It became national news when a 20-foot by 60-foot slab of the second-floor loading area fell February 5 inside Pittsburgh's David L. Lawrence Convention Center as a tractor-trailer drove over it. The trailer was left dangling, while a large forklift crashed 30 feet to a walkway below. No one was injured. The building was immediately evacuated and closed, then examined, repaired, and gone over with every possible test to assure that the faulty expansion joint that caused the fall was repaired and the problem would not recur elsewhere. This year's International Auto Show, one of the center's largest, was canceled, but the center reopened March 9.

The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is one of the world's largest buildings built using “green” design and green practices. A recent report cites annual recycling of 65,480 pounds of paper and cardboard — enough to save more than 557 trees and 229,000 gallons of water — and the reclamation of more than 4.75 million gallons of water through the building's water treatment facility. Finally, use of the convention center's natural ventilation system for 58 event days (representing 33 percent of the exhibit hall rental days) eliminated the need for artificial heating and cooling on those days.

Atlantic City casinos are growing bigger and sparkling brighter to attract meetings. As a group, the Atlantic City casino industry is focusing on wealthier gamblers and those who stay longer, such as meeting attendees who average three and a half days in a convention city. At Harrah's, a new 90-foot glass dome contains a spa and pool complex surrounded by palm trees and tropical plants, the centerpiece of a $550 million expansion that opened in May. The makeover includes a new 620-seat buffet and six retail shops. The final component, a new 962-room tower, will follow. Borgata and Trump Taj Mahal are also building towers that will cumulatively add nearly 2,600 rooms to Atlantic City. Borgata will open its new 800-room tower late this year, followed by the Harrah's and Trump projects in 2008.

Facilities Update

The District

  • The St. Regis Hotel is scheduled to reopen in November with 15 new luxury suites (reducing total guest rooms from 193 to 178) and a new spa. The hotel will have undergone a complete renovation of all guest rooms, public areas, and the ballroom and all 11 meeting rooms.

  • Construction of the long-awaited Marriott Convention Center Hotel is expected to be completed in 2010. It will have 1,434 rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The 765-room JW Marriott Hotel at Pennsylvania Avenue recently completed a $20 million renovation.

Maryland

  • In Prince George's County, just down the Potomac River from official Washington, Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is rising on 41.7 acres, just off I-95 on the Capital Beltway at interchange I-295. The 2,000-room Gaylord National will have 470,000 square feet of exhibition, event, and meeting space and will anchor a 300-acre National Harbor destination filled with shops, entertainment, hotels, and restaurants. Gaylord National is booking now in anticipation of an April 2008 opening.

  • The Bethesda Marriott Hotel on Pooks Hill Road in February completed a $12 million, 18-month renovation of all 400 guest rooms and meeting spaces.

  • In Baltimore, the most recent downtown hotel opening was the 126-room Hampton Inn at Camden Yards, which opened in early December.

  • The 337-room Sheraton Inner Harbor, connected to the Baltimore Convention Center, has completed a $1.7 million makeover of its guest rooms and suites.

  • The 707-room former Wyndham Inner Harbor has become the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel; it completed a $30 million renovation in May of its rooms, lobby and 30,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space.

  • The 315-room Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Executive Meeting Center opened March 27 in Rockville after renovating all guest rooms. The hotel was previously a Doubletree. Also refreshed this spring was the IACC-certified Conference Center, with 20,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space.

New Jersey

  • The Westin Jersey City, a new waterfront hotel in the Newport mixed-use development, will soar 253-feet and include 429 guest rooms, with a conference center, 10,000-square-foot ballroom, and banquet facilities. The hotel is expected to open in summer 2008.

  • Atlantic City's Borgata Resort has completed a $200 million expansion that added casino space, two nightclubs, retail space, and several restaurants, including a Wolfgang Puck Café. A second phase of expansion will consist of an 830,000-square-foot tower, adding 800 guest rooms, including 100 suites. The 40-story tower will also include indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and fitness center, more meeting space, and more retail shops. Estimated at $347 million, the tower's completion is targeted for late this year.

  • The Palm, a legendary high-end restaurant since 1926, opened in 2005 in The Quarter at Tropicana, a venue that mirrors Old Havana and features shopping, dining, and entertainment. The Atlantic City Palm seats 270 people in 8,200 square feet and offers groups three private dining rooms. Completion of The Quarter at Tropicana also 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.

New York

  • This past fall, the RIHGA Royal Hotel began a transformation into the London NYC in midtown Manhattan. Located on West 54th Street, between Sixth and Seventh avenues, the hotel debuted in January with 561 suites on 54 floors.

  • Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers at 811 Seventh Avenue recently unveiled its top-to-bottom renovation. The hotel has 1,750 guest rooms and 55,000 square feet of meeting space and ballrooms.

  • Almost a new hotel after a $10.2 million renovation in 2005, the 360-room Hyatt Regency Wind Watch topped off the work by redoing the Terrace Ballroom in 2006. Set amid several hundred acres and an 18-hole golf course, it's more a resort than a suburban hotel in Hauppauge on Long Island. There is 14,000 square feet of conference and banquet space.

  • The Sheraton Tarrytown, the prototype for Sheraton's new 150-room hotel design, opened in January. Two flexible meeting rooms and a boardroom accommodate up to 80 people.

Pennsylvania

  • W Hotels will build a 250-room hotel in Center City Philadelphia across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Anticipated to open in 2009, the hotel will include 11,000 square feet of meeting space and a 6,500-square-foot spa.

  • Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is building an Aloft hotel near the Philadelphia International Airport. The 135-room hotel is expected to open sometime in mid-2008.

  • Bridgeman's View is a $600 million real estate project in Philadelphia named for Ironworkers Local Union 401, which built the Ben Franklin Bridge. The 66-story residential tower will consist of 794 upscale condos and a 200 to 300 room boutique hotel.

  • In the heart of Philadelphia, the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue has 30,000 square feet of meeting space and a 24-hour business center. At the hotel's Pierre and Carlo European Salon & Spa, guests can relax and have a complimentary glass of wine or a cocktail with manicures, pedicures, or other spa treatments. On Fridays and Saturdays, it's free mimosas.

  • Starwood is currently building a new Four Points by Sheraton, an eight-story, 90-room hotel just across from the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The hotel is scheduled to open by the end of this year.

  • Fairmont Hotels and Resorts will operate a new hotel at 3 PNC Plaza, a 23-story “green” office, hotel, residential, and retail complex now rising in Pittsburgh. The 185-room Fairmont Pittsburgh is expected to open in summer 2009 and will have 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

  • The historic 216-room Bedford Springs Hotel reopened in Bedford on Memorial Day after undergoing nearly two years of renovations at a cost of $100 million. It has 20,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

  • Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company recently built an $18 million addition to the Hershey Country Club that includes a new clubhouse, pool, and a 6,500-square-foot, year-round entertainment pavilion.

Virginia

  • The 496-room Hilton Alexandria Mark Center has completed a $10.2 million guest room renovation. Additionally, the 45,000 square feet of meeting space was upgraded and refreshed.

  • The Williamsburg Lodge expansion is complete. The new conference center has 45,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, while the restored main building now has 323 guest rooms.

  • A long-abandoned Richmond landmark, the Miller & Rhoads building, will become the Miller & Rhoads Hilton by summer 2008, with 250 guest rooms, 150 condominiums, meeting space, and retail space. The entrance to the $80 million renovation will be diagonally across from the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

  • A $200 million development project in Hampton will bring a convention hotel and a 2,000-seat theater to the site presently shared by the Hampton Roads Convention Center, an Embassy Suites hotel, and the Hampton Coliseum. Completion dates have not yet been set.

  • Virginia Beach officials have long wanted a headquarters hotel for their new $207 million convention center. Now, Hyatt Corp. has submitted a plan to build a 400-room, 18-story hotel next door. At least one other proposal is being considered.

  • Expected to open this fall, the 236-room Westin Virginia Beach Town Center will have 10,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space including an 8,800-square-foot ballroom.

  • In April, Norfolk opened the $36 million Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center. More than an embarkation terminal, the center has 33,300 square feet of meeting and banquet spaces that range from the 13,500-square-foot Half Moone Vista for large parties surrounded by ocean and ships to the 1,100-square-foot Bermuda Room for smaller meetings.

  • In downtown Norfolk, the Waterside Convention Connection has more than 1,000 committable rooms within walking distance of 206,000 square feet of meeting space, museums, restaurants, theaters, and shops.

Ask the CVB

The District

Washington Convention and Tourism Corp.
(202) 789-7023
www.washington.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14.5%

Maryland

Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association
(410) 659-7300, (800) 343-3468;
www.baltimore.org
Total Hotel Tax: 12.5%

New Jersey

Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
(888) 222-3683, (609) 449-7100
www.meetinac.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13%

New York

NYC & Company
(212) 484-1218
www.nycvisit.com
Total Hotel Tax: 13.625% + $3.50 per room occupancy

Pennsylvania

Greater Pittsburgh CVB
(800) 359-0758, (412) 281-7711
www.visitpittsburgh.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14%

Philadelphia CVB
(800) 225-5745, (215) 636-3300
www.pcvb.org
Total Hotel Tax: 14%

Virginia

Alexandria CVA
(703) 838-4200, (800) 388-9119
www.FunSide.com
Total Hotel Tax: 10% plus $1 per room

Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
(703) 228-0888, (800) 296-7996;
www.arlingtonvirginiausa.com
Total Hotel Tax: 11.75%

Norfolk CVB
(800) 368-3097, (757) 664-6620
www.norfolkcvb.com
Total Hotel Tax: 14% plus $1 bed tax per room per night

Virginia Beach CVB
www.vbfun.com/convention Center
(757) 385-6652
Total Hotel Tax: 13.5% plus $1 per room per night

Phantom Planner

  • Planning a meeting at Gaylord National? Attendees can catch the Metrobus BWI Shuttle (Route B30 Express) at Greenbelt Metro Station for a quick, inexpensive ride from Prince George's County to BWI Airport. A one-way trip is only $3. The Express takes you directly to the lower level of the terminal, where you can also catch a return shuttle to Greenbelt Metro Station.

  • The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum threw open their doors last October with year-round free admission for all. This is the first time in more than two decades that the museums will be free on an ongoing basis.

  • Amish people are frequently encountered in Pennsylvania and Maryland. They are pleased to introduce visitors to their traditional foods, dress, and crafts in the village shops where they sell these things, but not in informal meetings on the street.

  • In Amish country, horse-drawn buggies travel at 4 mph to 9 mph and a horse may back up a few feet when stopped. Leave some distance between your vehicle and the buggy in front of you at a stop sign or traffic light. These slow-moving vehicles frequently pull to the side to let faster traffic pass.

  • The Newport News Tourism Development Office has produced a nifty “Site Inspection Handbook” for meeting, conference, tour, and reunion planners. Rather than tell you what you already know, it provides planners eight easily used pages to record the specific information from a site visit that groups will need later.

  • Two low-cost carriers, AirTran and JetBlue, are now flying into Richmond, Va., making that destination more economical for meetings.

  • Delaware has no sales tax on most purchases, including consumer goods, restaurants, and entertainment. There is a 10 percent hotel room tax. Pennsylvania levies no sales tax on clothing and shoes.

Special Venues

  • In the heart of Delaware's beautiful Brandywine Valley, the Winterthur Estate was created in the early 20th century by the H. F. du Pont family and designed as an 18th-century European country home. Today it is one of the few surviving great American country mansions where groups can host events — in three period rooms, the Visitor Center, or the elegant museum galleries. Tented events are also welcome on the extensive grounds. (800) 448-3883; www.winterthur.org

  • Gadsby's Tavern in Old Town Alexandria is an Early American period restaurant and a museum of 18th-century antiques. It was named after Englishman John Gadsby, who operated the tavern from 1796 until 1808 when. George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams all had temporary quarters there. Gadsby's is a spiffy venue for banquets: It has private dining rooms, a courtyard, and a 100-seat ballroom available for functions and special events. (703) 548-1288

  • Let your group experience Amish food and hospitality at the Bird-in-Hand Family Restaurant & Smorgasbord about 7 miles west of Lancaster, Pa. The smorgasbord features traditional dishes such as pork and sauerkraut, chicken pot pie, shepherd's pie, apple dumplings, and a myriad of other baked goods, as well as beef pot roast, baked ham, and roast turkey. The restaurant has newly expanded private banquet and meeting rooms and can serve a group of 10 to 300 people. (717) 768-1111, (800) 665-8780; john.jim@bird-in-hand.com