Atlanta is hoping a dramatic addition to the Omni Hotel at CNN Center, coupled with some neighborhood facelifts and new attractions, will put a charge into its downtown convention trade. With the November opening of its 600-room, 28-story North Tower, combined with the original 15-story, 467-room Omni, which opened in the mid-1970s, the hotel now offers 1,067 guest rooms and 120,000 square feet of meeting space. The 70,000-square-foot expansion of the hotel's meeting space includes 19,864-square-foot and 14, 196-square-foot ballrooms, six new breakout rooms, and a high-tech boardroom.
The North Tower is the centerpiece of a long-awaited redevelopment on the eastern edge of downtown Atlanta's convention and entertainment district. It will be followed next spring by a reconstructed plaza for the adjacent Georgia World Congress Center. The $4 million project will create green space, benches, and a pedestrian plaza between the hotel, the Congress Center, and Centennial Olympic Park. In early summer, the new four-lane Andrew Young International Boulevard will facilitate traffic between the Omni, Congress Center, and Philips Arena, the 21,000-seat home of the NHL Thrashers and NBA Hawks. In 2005-2006, the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola attraction will open across from the Omni Hotel/CNN Center/Congress Center complex.
The development comes at a crucial time for Atlanta's convention and hotel industry. For the past three years, the city's meetings business has seen a decline in trade shows and other gatherings. At the same time, competition is stiffening from Orlando and elsewhere, as well as right in downtown's back yard. A couple of miles from the massive World Congress Center, the new Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center at Technology Center, with 252 guest rooms and 21,000 square feet of executive-style meeting space, is bidding for small corporate and educational groups. The new Georgia International Convention Center, a half-mile from Hartsfield International Airport, has 400,000 square feet of function space.