The Mid-Atlantic states have lots that’s new to offer meeting-goers, even in this slow economy.
Recession? Tell the meetings industry in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and the District. Are facilities spending like there’s no tomorrow? More likely, they are wisely investing in infrastructure now during a down period in anticipation of a welcome recovery slowly getting under way. Meeting organizers take note:
The $786 million Pennsylvania Convention Center expansion in Philadelphia is about 30 percent complete and expected to open in the first quarter of 2011 with about a million square feet of exhibit and meeting space, a 60 percent increase.
In late September Pittsburgh hosted nearly two dozen world leaders and showed off the eco-friendly David L. Lawrence Convention Center during the two-day Group of 20 summit. “The immediate impact we’ve marked at $35 million in return,” said Joe McGrath, CEO of VisitPittsburgh.
Funding for the new 1,167-room, $537 million Marriott Marquis, adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C., has been approved and groundbreaking is expected any day now, with an opening date in the first quarter of 2013. Also, for the closed Watergate Hotel, a new buyer has appeared on the horizon and is deliberating how much money is needed in renovations to restore the 251-room building to a luxury hotel.
In West Virginia, the Greenbrier shows signs of returning to the elite hotel it once was. The PGA Tour has returned championship golf to the Greenbrier for the first time in 15 years. New owners have said they would restore the shine to a resort and 721-room hotel that once hosted presidents and royalty. New meeting space and a casino will be built at the site of a once-secret underground bunker built during the Cold War to house members of Congress.
The Atlantic City Convention Center announced in September that it is receiving a $1.5 million grant toward the $3.4 million construction of a wind turbine that would generate electricity for the building. Earlier this year, the center started using solar power to provide more than a quarter of the building’s electricity.
Baltimore is in line to add 300 medium-priced rooms a block from the Inner Harbor when a Hyatt Place and a Summerfield Suites come to town.
In Baltimore, the 202-room Hotel Monaco Baltimore, originally part of a 1906 railroad terminal, opened to visitors in July. The Monaco features Tall Rooms with 96-inch king-sized beds, extra-long robes, high ceilings, and raised showerheads. There are six meeting rooms.
Hilton Hotels recently opened a dual-branded development in Silver Spring that has 149 Hampton rooms on the lower eight floors and 90 Homewood Suites above them.The hotels share a lobby, with separate check-in desks and dining areas for each brand. Guests of both hotels use the meeting rooms, business center, pool, and workout room.
Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center opened in April 2008 with 2,000 guest rooms, 470,000 square feet of convention space, a 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, and seven restaurants. Located in National Harbor, the property offers easy access to Washington with an hourly shuttle service. It also runs a shuttle every 20 minutes between the conference resort entrance and Ronald Reagan National Airport baggage claim. One-way is $18, round trip $32.
Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City has a $500 million expansion, a 960-room Waterfront Tower, giving it a total of 2,590 guest rooms and more casino space.
In May 2008, Atlantic City’s Tropicana Casino and Resort opened its Cuba attractions: The Havana Rooftop Slots and The Rumba Lounge. Then in September, the resort doubled the Caribbean magic by opening Palm Cove premium slots, off the Palm Walk in the South Tower. Tropicana has 2,125 rooms and more than 122,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space.
Starwood Hotels has announced plans for a 92-room Four Points by Sheraton hotel with meeting rooms and a penthouse ballroom just a block from the Philadelphia Convention Center.
The 230-room Hotel Palomar Philadelphia opened in mid-October following $93 million in renovations to the former Architects Building. It is Kimpton’s first venture in Philadelphia.
Doubletree Pittsburgh/Monroeville Convention Center is finishing a two-year makeover with the hotel projected to be open by year’s end. The hotel has 190 guest rooms and 16,000 square feet of meeting space. The new Monroeville Convention Center opened in September next door to the hotel with 100,000 square feet of exhibition space capable of hosting groups up to 5,400 people. A reuse of a former retail store, the Center replaces the Monroeville ExpoMart.
Three Valley Forge area hotels have made more than $30 million investments in upgrades. The Radisson Valley Forge in King of Prussia is making in-room upgrades of more than $1.5 million. Dolce Valley Forge, on DeKalb Pike in King of Prussia, recently completed a $20 million renovation. Formerly a Hilton, the 327-room hotel now has 22 conference rooms and a new 7,200 square-foot ballroom. The 229-room Embassy Suites Philadelphia/Valley Forge has had a $10 million transformation and includes 5,000 square feet of event space.
In Pennsylvania Dutch country the new Lancaster County Convention Center and adjoining 300-room Marriott at Penn Square hotel debuted this past April. Together the buildings have 90,000 square feet of meeting space.
The $203 million Virginia Beach Convention Center, completed two years ago, has more than 500,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
The 340-acre Salamander Resort & Spa is slated to open in spring 2010 in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The 168-room Middleburg resort will have a total of 13 meeting rooms.
The 1924 George Washington Hotel in downtown Winchester, closed since the mid-1970s, reopened in April 2008. The 90-room GW has 6,600 square feet of meeting space.
A new 250-room Hilton Garden Inn across from the Greater Richmond Convention Center opened in February with more than 7,900 square feet of function space.