Along the beaches of the Atlantic coast and barrier islands, owners and local CVBs have noted that some hotels and meeting facilities are in serious need of polishing and considerable updating to stay current with technology and the amenities needed for today's meetings. Sun, sand, and golf are all essential, but so are Wi-Fi and ergonomic chairs if beach meetings are going to compete with the facilities available in big cities.
In seaside New Bern, N.C. ,the Sheraton Grand Hotel is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that includes a new lobby, additional meeting space, and a ballroom, and the New Bern Grand Marina is being refurbished with new decking; utility pylons with 30-, 50-, and 100-amp electricity; Wi-Fi; and water, cable, and phone connections.
During the 1960s and '70s, Jekyll Island was Georgia's glamour destination. Bob Barker would triumphantly reward game-show winners with trips to Jekyll Island and the then-luxurious Buccaneer Hotel. After 30 or 40 years, the shine wore off. Deals were made and rates dropped to save group business, but Jekyll's year-round diet of state professional associations, nonprofits, churches, and other midsize convention groups had already left. Jekyll Island State Park Authority, responsible for preserving and improving the island, ordered the Buccaneer torn down in October and chose Linger Longer Communities, the developer of Reynolds Plantation, a Ritz-Carlton golf resort near Atlanta, to lead redevelopment of a large tract where the Buccaneer used to stand. The developer says the $441 million project will include construction of three new hotels — a 125-room economy hotel, a 200-room midpriced hotel, and a 400-room convention hotel — at a total cost of $163 million. A new convention center will be built in two phases along with a village center of shops and restaurants with the necessary roads, parking, and infrastructure. Finally, 160 condo units and 227 vacation homes will be constructed. Permitting and public input are under way, and developers hope to break ground this spring.
Meanwhile, work on a 138-room Jekyll Ocean Oaks hotel is in progress on the former site of the Holiday Inn, which has been demolished. Construction is slated to be finished in time for a June 2008 beachfront opening. The SpringHill Suites select-service hotel will have limited meeting space, but will be affiliated with the Jekyll Island Club for parties and events.
In Atlanta, by 2010, nine new boutique hotels will bring more than 1,500 additional rooms to the city's current hotel inventory of more than 92,000.
Construction crews have been busy in North Carolina on the new Raleigh Convention Center for the past two years, and the building is more than 85 percent complete and on schedule. The 500,000-square-foot, $220 million project is expected to open this summer; more than 80 groups have scheduled events during the first two years. This past August, developers topped off the adjacent 400-room Raleigh Marriott City Center.
In South Carolina, Myrtle Beach will be the site of the world's first Hard Rock Park, a 140-acre music-themed amusement park affiliated with Hard Rock Cafe. The $400 million project will have more than 40 attractions, a multipurpose live-music amphitheater and meeting space, rollercoasters, children's play areas, restaurants, cafés, and retail stores. Construction began in 2006, and the park is expected to open this year in Fantasy Harbor off U.S. 501. Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand also offer more than 100 golf courses and 50 miniature golf courses, nearly all of them open to the public.
The 127-room Ellis Hotel opened in October 2007 at the site of Atlanta's and the nation's deadliest hotel fire. The 1946 Winecoff fire killed 119 people and led officials nationwide to update fire codes for hotels, including sprinklers and multiple exits.
Construction on the Hotel Palomar on West Peachtree began in August; a May 2009 opening is scheduled. The 21-story hotel will have 304 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Loews Hotels is kicking off construction on a $500 million luxury mixed-use development, 12th & Midtown, spanning four city blocks in midtown Atlanta. The centerpiece is the 414-room Loews Atlanta Hotel, expected to open in April 2010 with more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
In September, TWELVE Centennial Park opened in downtown Atlanta with 102 rooms, steps away from the Georgia Aquarium, the New World of Coca-Cola, and CNN Center.
Opening in 2010 in Midtown, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a $10 million property with 200 hotel rooms, 70 residences, and a three-story spa will also move its U.S. development offices from New York to Atlanta.
Three W Hotels are slated to open in downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead in 2008: The Sheraton Colony Square Hotel in Midtown will go through a $96 million transformation into a W at Peachtree and 14th streets with an early 2008 opening debuting 291 rooms, a spa and meeting space. The downtown W, also opening this year, will include 237 rooms in the mixed-use project in Ivan Allen Plaza including 76 condominiums. A Buckhead location with a 225-room W hotel at the site of the old Lenox Inn will boast a rooftop bar, two-story restaurant and 7,000 square feet of meeting space. Including the current Perimeter Center destination which recently completed room renovations totaling $3 million, these new properties will give Atlanta the most W hotels in the U.S., second only to New York City.
The historic Carnegie building on Ellis Street will be renewed as a Hotel Indigo, and ready for guests in December 2008. This downtown location will be the second of the brand in Atlanta.
In March, the Hilton Garden Inn will open near the Georgia Aquarium with 242 rooms. This hotel will be part of Park Pavilion. Park Pavilion will encompass 32,000 square feet of restaurants and retail.
With 150 hotel rooms, 50 condos and a 9,200-square-foot ballroom, The St. Regis hotel will open in Buckhead this year.
The Mansion on Peachtree in Buckhead, opening in early 2008, will be a new luxury hotel and condominium tower with two restaurants (one called Craft by celebrity-chef Tom Colicchio from Bravo channel's Top Chef reality show), 127 hotel rooms, 45 condominiums, three garden villas, a 15,000-square-foot spa, and a 4,000-square-foot fitness center.
The JW Marriott Hotel Buckhead Atlanta has completed work on its new 9,000 square-foot Phoenix Ballroom, the final step in $4.5 million in hotel renovations to 18,710 square feet of meeting space, lobby, indoor pool, and health club.
Scheduled for completion in 2010, 1 Hotel will be located in The Streets of Buckhead, a new mixed-use development. 1 Hotel will be a two-tower structure with a spa.
Kimpton Hotel Group will open a 283-room Hotel Monaco in Buckhead in 2010. Construction will begin this year in the Streets of Buckhead retail development, which will feature high-end shopping, dining, and accommodations.
Hard Rock International will develop a hotel in Atlanta as the focal point of a new mixed-use development featuring 270 guest rooms and 30 luxury residences with retail and entertainment facilities. The development will be opposite the Georgia Aquarium.
Lake Lanier Islands has as its centerpiece, the Emerald Pointe Resort, which consists of 214 newly renovated guest rooms and suites and two restaurants grouped with IACC-certified meeting facilities and a spa. Both the Bullfrogs and the Windows restaurants are being updated and Executive Villas are rising next to the resort's Conference Center. The Villas will each have six rooms and the first six are expected to open in the spring.
Construction on the new Macon Marriott City Center Hotel begins this spring, with an expected opening in late 2009.
The first Avia hotel broke ground in September in Savannah; opening is scheduled for December 2008. The property will offer a bistro and café area where guests can enjoy breakfasts with local ingredients — such as an Avia spin on grits.
A new 100-room Indigo hotel with 465 square feet of meeting space for functions or special events plans to break ground in Asheville this winter, with a target opening of summer 2009.
Asheville Renaissance Hotel has finished a renovation of all of its 277 rooms, including the installation of 32-inch HD televisions in each room. It has 21,000 square feet of flexible meeting and banquet space.
A $6.2 million renovation has added technology and amenities to the Charlotte Marriott SouthPark. The 187-room hotel sports a concierge level, 12 meeting rooms, and a 24-hour health club.
Great Wolf Resorts begins construction this winter on a 402-suite resort in the Charlotte suburb of Concord that will feature a 98,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, a spa, theaters, 16,000 square feet of meeting space, restaurants, and a food court. Great Wolf expects to open the new facility in 2009.
Less than a year after opening the $67 million Charlotte Embassy Suites Resort & Convention Center in Concord, the developer announced plans to add about 140 rooms and enlarge meeting space from 50,000 to 70,000 square feet, a $25 to $30 million expansion.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide began construction in July of the Westin Raleigh Hotel & Residences at Soleil Center in Raleigh. The facility will feature 290 guest rooms and 54 luxury condominiums, as well as 30,000 square feet of meeting space, in a 43-story building. It is expected to open in summer 2009.
The Radisson Hotel High Point City Center offers 252 guest rooms as well as 12,488 square feet of meeting space. All guest rooms offer free high-speed Internet access.
Built in 1918 as a private residence for John Hampton Adams, the J.H. Adams Inn, recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 31-room boutique hotel. Guest rooms have high-speed Internet access, and there is 500 square feet of meeting space in two rooms.
The 340-room Charleston Marriott opened in July 2007 in downtown Charleston. The hotel offers 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space with nine meeting rooms and six breakout rooms. The hotel also features the restaurant, Saffire - Charleston's Oven, as well as Aqua Terrace, the hotel's evening rooftop dining area.
The 214-room Mills House Hotel, Charleston, opened in 1853 and restored in 2007, specializes in upscale meetings/incentives. Located in the historic district, the hotel features 11 meeting rooms with a total of 11,474 square feet, a restaurant, indoor pool, and complimentary Wi-Fi in all guest rooms.
The 130-room Courtyard by Marriott Charleston-Mt. Pleasant, opened in October. The facility has four meeting rooms, with total meeting space of 2,100 square feet; a restaurant; and high-speed Internet access. It is close to historic Charleston, golf, beaches, dining, and shopping.
The new Hilton Columbia Center hotel at 924 Senate St. is in the midst of the city's financial, entertainment, and historic districts. Along with 222 guest rooms are 4,000 square feet of meeting space and a Ruth's Chris Restaurant. Nearby are Columbia Riverfront Park and the new technology epicenter, Innovista.
Down the road in Beaufort, just west of Ribaut Road on Boundary Street, a 115-room Hilton Garden Inn is expected to open February 20 offering marsh views, meeting space, and a host of amenities.
In Myrtle Beach, The Caravelle Resort completed an $8 million renovation of its resort building in 2007. The resort has more than 600 guest rooms and offers 4,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 3,900-square-foot ballroom, a board room, a private dining room, and a hospitality room.
MARTA trains run from Hartsfield International airport to downtown Atlanta daily every 5 to 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Cost is $1.50 each way. Atlanta Airport Shuttles serve downtown every 15 minutes for $8 one way, $14 round trip. (800) 842-2770
Got a little time to fill? Visit Galyan's Trading Company in Atlanta, a sporting goods emporium that appeals to upscale weekend jocks. There's a climbing wall, interactive batting cages, tennis courts, and putting greens. www.dickssportinggoods.com
Charles Towne Landing, about three miles from downtown Charleston, is the site of the first permanent English settlement in South Carolina. There is a state park and a 17th-century village. Group admissions are less than $5 per person depending on the size of the group. (843) 852-4200.
Opened in May 2007 in downtown Atlanta next to the Georgia Aquarium, the new World of Coca-Cola is a spectacular event venue. There are five areas available to accommodate after-hours events (even a remarkable tasting space with more than 70 different samples), or the entire facility may be reserved. Groups can range from 25 to a couple of thousand and up to three separate events can be held simultaneously. Call (404) 515-9622; www.woccatlanta.com
The slowly rotating Sun Dial restaurant is 700-plus feet off terra firma at the top of the Atlanta Westin Peachtree Plaza. This is high-end dining, so enjoy the beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms or the seared North Georgia mountain trout. (404) 589-7506; www.sundialrestaurant.com
Poogan's Porch at 72 Queen St., Charleston, is a beautiful Victorian house with several private dining rooms and porches for groups looking for excellent Low Country cuisine. Try the Queen Street oysters, She Crab soup, peanut butter pie, or Cajun shrimp. The restaurant seats 185, private banquet rooms for groups of 15 to 65. (843) 577-2337; www.poogansporch.com
For a special occasion, consider the Museum of Art in downtown Columbia, S.C., at 1515 Main St. Contemporary architectural space is filled with natural light, flowing color, and sculpture. Meeting and reception areas can accommodate as few as 5 or as many as 1,000. (803) 343-2212; www.columbiamuseum.org
Georgia Dept. of Economic Development
Savannah Area CVB
Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority
Greensboro Area CVB
Greater Raleigh CVB
Charleston Area CVB
Hilton Head Island/Bluffton VCB
Myrtle Beach Area Conv. Bureau