New meeting-friendly properties are going up all along the eastern seaboard.
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 opened this April on Pennsylvania Avenue. Almost before people recovered their equilibrium from that opening, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center opened at the end of April just upriver in Prince George's County, Maryland. 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, a new 300-acre waterfront community.
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 coming back after a tough year under Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex Corp., which lost its casino license in December 2007 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. The Tropicana is the largest hotel in New Jersey, at 2,129 rooms. There is no question of it closing — Justice Stein is vetting at least two dozen candidates who are already in line to buy the casino hotel.
The $700 million expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center is under way. Once it is complete in 2011, the convention center will provide a million square feet of exhibit space and a total of 87 meeting rooms.
In Virginia, Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim announced in June that the city's long-anticipated $150 million new conference hotel will be flagged the Westin Norfolk and is scheduled to break ground at the end of 2008 or early in 2009. Officials expect it to be completed by spring 2011, around the same time as the city's light rail project. In addition to 301 guest rooms, a 50,000-square-foot conference center connected to the hotel will include a ballroom and three floors of meeting space. A sales office opens this summer to work with meeting planners.
For those whose planning doesn't include that much lead-time, Norfolk's Waterside Convention Connection is an alliance that provides 1,200 downtown guest rooms and suites, 55 meeting rooms, and 121,000 square feet of convention space.
With its 8-story atrium skylight back in place and the koi back in their ponds, the 223-room Embassy Suites Hotel Baltimore North in Hunt Valley reopened in January, three months after the 29-foot-by-60-foot glass skylight tumbled into the atrium. The hotel has 4,320 square feet of meeting space.
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.
The 276-room Sheraton Edison Hotel Raritan Center will undergo a comprehensive renovation, expected to be completed by year's end.
Doral Arrowwood Conference Resort in Rye Brook, N.Y., has added a 40-seat executive boardroom and an executive dining room that seats 70.
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 Glen Cove Mansion Hotel & Conference Center on 55 acres of Long Island's Gold Coast is only 30 miles from Manhattan and major airports, but an eon from city noise and traffic. Access via Glen Cove station and the Long Island Rail Road straight from Penn Station in Midtown is a breeze, so day conferences are a specialty. The conference center conforms to IACC standards and offers 27 meeting rooms holding 10 to 300 conferees or more than 1,000 for an outdoor event. There are 196 guest rooms, a restaurant, and spa facilities.
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 County Convention Center is about 30 percent complete and should 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, a 202-room hotel, will offer a restaurant, business center, 5,300 square feet of meeting space, and a grand ballroom when it opens in late 2009.
Built in 1904, Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue offers 172 guest rooms and suites and 30,000 square feet of function space, including a two-tiered grand ballroom with lighting fixtures designed by Thomas Edison.
The Liaison Capitol Hill, an Affinia Hotel, formerly a Holiday Inn, opened in April following a $12 million renovation of the hotel's 343 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Marriott International 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 slated to open in 2012 across the street from the convention center.
At Park Hyatt Washington near Georgetown, which has 215 rooms and suites and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, there is a Tea Cellar and a glass Pu-Erh aging room to store, display, and age vintage teas. Sip them in the Blue Duck Tavern and open-kitchen restaurant.
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 a 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, accommodating up to 550 guests. The new Surf Club Ocean Grille seats 175.
A 149-room Hilton Garden Inn opened last November less than a mile from the Hampton Roads Convention Center. The hotel features a restaurant, bar, and more than 2,300 square feet of meeting space.
The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center completed renovations in April to transform 180 of 331 guest rooms and corridors, including the property's executive level. The new décor celebrates the hotel's 125th anniversary. A 63,000-square-foot conference center has also been renovated.
The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center opened in December 2007 with 236 guest rooms and 120 residences downtown across from the Sandler Theater. The hotel has an executive floor, pool, restaurant, and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville is building a $10 million meetings pavilion, scheduled to open this fall. The pavilion will include a 6,000-square-foot ballroom.
Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling completed a $15 million addition in 2007 that includes 53 deluxe rooms in Wilson Lodge and the six-bedroom Palmer House estate, plus a renovation of the original 212 rooms in Wilson Lodge and 15 meeting rooms. Three new eight-room cottages are expected to open in September for meeting groups.
Recently, The Greenbrier launched Hemisphere, an upscale tasting-menu restaurant with global influences, and a modern cocktail lounge, 38°80, named for the hotel's approximate latitude and longitude.
Dulles International and Reagan National airports have installed wireless Internet service in all public areas, including parking garages. 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.
NYC & Company (the marketing and tourism organization for New York City) 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
Prince George's County CVB
Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority
NYC & Company
Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau
Valley Forge CVB
(800) 441-3549, ext 7990
Lehigh Valley CVB
Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association
Arlington Convention and Visitors Service
Virginia Beach CVB
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, a $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. Though the project has not yet broken ground, 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