Up and Coming Chicago's historic Silversmith Building is being transformed into the Crowne Plaza Chicago Silversmith. When the hotel opens in December, the ten-story, 1897 structure will have 143 guest rooms and meeting space for groups of up to 150 persons. An executive boardroom will offer videoconferencing capabilities, and business support services will be available.

The Waterfront, a six-year-old resort in Huntington Beach, CA, is expanding on a grand scale, making the most of its Pacific coast setting. A new 500-room property, The Waterfront Grand Resort Hotel, and an 80,000-square-foot conference center are breaking ground early in 1998, complementing the 290-room Waterfront Hilton Beach Resort. Completion is set for late 1999. In the second phase of the expansion, the Hilton will add 250 rooms.

In February, the Broward County Commission approved construction of a 500-room, $53 million Crowne Plaza Hotel adjacent to the Greater Fort Lauderdale/

Broward County Convention Center. Construction begins in September and is expected to be finished by late 1999.

The new Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute in Hamilton is home to interactive displays on underwater tech- nology. The facility can host groups of up to 225 persons for receptions, 200 for dinner.

Bigger and Better Renaissance PineIsle Resort, in Lake Lanier Islands, GA, completed a $5 million renovation in March. The face-lift encompassed all 250 guest rooms, function space, public space, the 18-hole golf course, and other recreational facilities. The resort also added a 2,000-square-foot meeting room.

Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Resorts in St. Thomas closed April 1 to begin a $40 million reconstruction. When the properties reopen in December, it will be with redesigned exteriors and interiors and a new floor of suites at Frenchman's Reef, bringing the total there to 405 rooms. Morning Star has 96 units.

The Camberley Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, TX has added seven family suites as part of a $5 million renovation. Each suite has one room with bunk beds, game tables, and a refrigerator.

Mexico on the Move Construction has just begun on the $70 million Fiesta Americana Cabo del Sol resort in Baja California Sur, near Los Cabos, Mexico. A 250-room hotel and 50 villas are expected to open by December 1998, and additional villas will go up over the following three years. The complex will feature 20,000 square feet of meeting space, a full-service spa, an 18-hole golf course, and two tennis courts.

Grand Bay Hotel and Resort de la Navidad opened in February on Mexico's Pacific coast between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo in Colima, Mexico. The hotel, one element of the new 1,200-acre Isla Navidad golf resort and marina complex, offers 191 guest rooms, 27 holes of golf, a 700-slip marina, and 15,500 square feet of meeting space. A 35,000-square-foot spa will open in 1998.

Twelve miles from Cancun's hotel zone, the all-inclusive, 423-room Moon Palace Resort opened in December. The property features Jacuzzis in all rooms and an outdoor amphitheater. n

Comfort and Indulgence, Colorado-style Talk about luxury. When the pedestrian plaza is completed this fall at Beaver Creek Resort, three all-weather escalators will run from the plaza to the slopes to save skiers the hassle of climbing stairs in heavy boots.

Few ski destinations evoke such images of glamour as do Vail and Beaver Creek, sister resorts ten miles apart along Colorado's Interstate 70. The two villages operate closely, offering interchangeable lift tickets, a connecting shuttle service, and a similar upscale style that is as relaxing as it is invigorating.

Vail's size and reputation have grown steadily since it opened in 1962, but the changes in the last year have been remarkable, and much more is on the way. On Vail Mountain, an evening activity center opened at the top of Lion's Head gondola this past season. A seven-minute ride in a heated, 12-passenger cable car (also new) brings vacationers back up the mountain at night to Eagle's Nest, an area with several restaurants, as well as a skating rink, tubing hill, and snowboard park.

At Beaver Creek, the ski terrain expanded by 30 percent this past year with the opening of a new high-speed lift, but the real news for conference planners is the soon-to-be-completed village development (of which the spiffy outdoor escalators are just a small part). Beaver Creek, already charming and exclusive and home to such meeting resorts as Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek and the Inn at Beaver Creek, is just finishing an extensive plaza of upscale retail shops, a year-round outdoor ice rink, and perhaps most importantly, the Beaver Creek Center for the Arts. With a 518-seat theater, a multi-story lobby, and a 2,250-square-foot gallery, the new center will offer planners new cultural and entertainment options as well as a potential off-site venue for special events.

And not to forget the biggest news of last season--a deal went through in January that allows Vail Resorts Inc., which owns and operates Vail and Beaver Creek, to acquire most of the ski operations of Ralcorp Holdings. Specifically, Keystone and Breckenridge resorts, about an hour east of Vail, are now all under the same umbrella. Look for new multimountain ticketing and discounts that could add flexibility to conference planning.