New and Renovated Properties Still Booming Even in the face of a challenging economy, newly constructed and renovated western meeting properties are booming— with an emphasis on luxurious amenities, sustainability and state-of-the-art technology.
While a recent report from Goldman Sachs projects a 2.8 percent increase in supply (guest rooms) and only a one percent growth in demand for 2008, hoteliers and developers aren’t hesitating to make major upgrades and build new properties. In fact, in some high-growth areas (Bellevue, Wash. and Anaheim, Calif. come to mind immediately) planners might have a tougher time finding a property that isn’t new or refurbished.
We spoke with some industry experts around the West to get their take on the newest waves in new and renovated properties, followed by an informal round-up of some shiny new and recently upgraded lodgings.
Voices of Experience
“The Boomer generation currently dominates the workforce and has established new standards for health and well-being,” says Jack Schmidt, vice president, regional director of sales and marketing for Suncadia in central Washington, about major trends in new and upgraded properties. “This generation has worked spa services and recreation into the daily routine and has built these expenses into the personal budget. These needs, along with the desire to focus on good mental health, have caused the hospitality industry to rethink its commitment to recreational facilities and services and expanding the offerings. Suncadia has been developed in the era of the ‘new resort’ and we have focused heavily on meeting these demands.”
To that end, the newly opened resort spread across 6,400 acres about 90 minutes east of Seattle has created a wealth of amenities to complement the 254-room Lodge at Suncadia and eventual 3,000-plus residential units, ranging from condos to mountain homes. “We just opened an 18,000-square-foot swim and fitness center with an indoor pool, steam and sauna, indoor water slides, and outdoor pool, hot tubs and extensive workout equipment and rooms for group and private fitness classes,” Schmidt says. “In addition to this major complex, we will open our Glade Spring Spa (in July), which is a 10,000-square-foot destination spa with 14 indoor treatment rooms and four outdoor treatment areas. The size and scope of these facilities are significantly different than if they were built just a decade ago.”
Schmidt says such amenities are tied into an increasing emphasis on groups spending time together not just in business settings but leisure ones as well. “We have seen that groups are most interested in the recreational components of the property. Many groups have figured out that what takes place after hours is equally as important as what takes place in the meeting room,” he explains. “Providing adequate recreation and fitness facilities keeps members of the group together in a more social environment and preserves the continuity of the meeting. It allows folks to connect on a social level, which has become increasingly more important in the search for work-life balance.”
To Clyde Guinn, senior vice president of operations for Stanford Hotels Corp—a San Francisco-based company specializing in the management, ownership and development of full-service hotels—technology and information transmittal are crucial to new and upgraded properties. “As a culture, we have become so much more sophisticated in terms of how we transmit and display information,” he says. “How can we capture meeting attendees who have everything at the tip of their fingers? We must have the tools to allow people to provide sophisticated content that is well-produced, presented in multimedia and involves the Internet in terms of how it is transmitted. I was recently at a conference where they handed all of the attendees a media stick containing the presentation information so we could take it with us.”
This trend was reflected to a degree in a $75-million facelift at one of Stanford’s premiere properties, the Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio on Oahu. The property now showcases an expanded 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art conference center, and each guest room offers the technologically advanced, ultra-modern GuestLink system, which includes a flat-screen 42-inch plasma HDTV multimedia monitor that you can use with a laptop computer, game station console, video/camera, iPod, DVD or MP3 player (in addition to cable television and pay-per-view movies). The hotel has also refurbished its guest rooms and made other upgrades throughout the property, which Guinn says ties into a local metamorphosis.
“Kalakaula Street is the main drag in Waikiki and is undergoing major transformations, as this entire area has been rebuilt,” he says. “The Kuhio area is undergoing a similar facelift that started two years ago, with new retail, dining and development. The Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio is just part of the larger movement to upgrade Waikiki as a meeting planner destination.” He adds that the renaissance is similar to what took place in Miami’s South Beach district about 25 years ago.
Lynn Cadwalader, a partner and co-chair for Holland & Knight’s Global Hospitality and Resorts Group, says that today’s meeting hotels have to look beyond business facilities to provide a more well-rounded experience. “The biggest trend right now is properties that are geared to the whole traveler. For example, I can’t imagine being a woman business traveler and going someplace that doesn’t have a spa. Planners aren’t just looking for hotels but also looking for things for people to do; there’s a lot more emphasis on groups connecting in other ways, like going to the theater.”
This trend is encapsulated in one of the projects Holland & Knight has been involved with, the in-progress Hotel and Residences at L.A. Live, which includes a large JW Marriott, a smaller Ritz-Carlton, commercial and retail space, fitness centers, restaurants, a movie theater and more. The firm is also involved with The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, set to open by early 2009; the property sprawls across 40 hillside acres overlooking the Coachella Valley, with a spacious spa, 72 pools and 18,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Set to open in October, the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown reached an impressive goal before a guest has even walked in the door—$52 million in advance group bookings. The 1,000-guest-room property will be Arizona’s largest hotel and will feature 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 17 meeting rooms, plus three outdoor function areas. And in the Scottsdale area, the Casino Arizona Resort & Spa will open in 2010 with more than 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor function space and 497 luxurious deluxe guest rooms—plus amenities like an outstanding spa, elegant dining and world-class gaming and entertainment.
In New Mexico, the Hilton Santa Fe Golf Resort & Spa at Buffalo Thunder has a list of draws almost as long as its name. A partnership between Hilton Hotels and the Pueblo of Pojoaque, the property will showcase a wealth of opportunities for both pleasure—a large casino, 36 holes of golf, full-service spa and seven restaurants—and business, as planners will have 66,000 sq. ft. of meeting and convention space to work with. The resort will reportedly become the largest in New Mexico upon opening late this summer with 390 guest rooms.
And just south of Albuquerque, the Isleta Casino & Resort’s new hotel and convention center is slated for a July grand opening. The hotel being built adjacent to New Mexico’s premier casino will showcase a 24-hour café, a steakhouse, an Asian bistro, an indoor pool, a fitness room, a full-service spa, a children’s recreation center and more than 30,000 sq. ft. of ballroom and meeting space. The hotel will feature more than tasteful rooms and suites, however, with the architecture highlighted by a five-story wall of glass in the lobby area and a unique structure that will house the area’s newest nightclub, built in the form of Isleta Pueblo pottery.
In British Columbia, the Four Points by Sheraton Victoria Gateway has just opened with 117 contemporary guest rooms featuring top-tier amenities that include 42-inch flat-screen TVs and high-speed Internet access. A day spa and indoor pool offer chances to relax and rejuvenate, plus the property also has 5,100 sq. ft. of meeting space.
A bit south in Seattle, the Hyatt Olive 8—one block north of the existing Grand Hyatt—is in its final construction phases and set for a December 2008 opening. The condo-tel tower will stand 39 stories high and include 346 guest rooms and 231 condominium units, plus 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
And just a stone’s throw outside of Seattle, Tulalip Resort Casino has added accommodations and meeting space to augment its already popular gaming entertainment. Opening this summer, the Four-Star resort will feature 370 guest rooms, more than 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, four restaurants and a full-service spa.
Among the sparkling new properties with a focus on luxury, CityCenter and its ARIA resort casino might take the prize when it comes to over-the-top elegance. The core of Vegas’ $8-billion “vertical city” set to open in late 2009, ARIA has two curvilinear glass towers that will rise 61 stories above the skyline and include 4,004 guest rooms—each with floor-to-ceiling windows, dark woods and fine décor. When it’s time for business, the property will include 300,000 sq. ft. of ultra-modern meeting space and 38 meeting rooms. And when it’s time to play, ARIA has worked with the visionary team behind Cirque du Soleil to create a permanent production paying tribute to the music of Elvis Presley. You would also expect a spa in such a spectacular property, but even there ARIA goes above and beyond with a 62-room facility that includes a coed balcony overlooking the resort’s incredible pool area.
“Interest in ARIA has been very positive for programs in 2010 and beyond,” says Gail Fitzgerald, the resort’s vice president of hotel sales & marketing. “We believe that the unique aspects of CityCenter—from the design, art, entertainment, shopping, dining options and guest experience—will attract Las Vegas visitors. CityCenter will offer something that has never existed in Las Vegas.”
Another Vegas venture sparking excitement is the M Resort Spa Casino, set for a March 2009 opening. The property will feature 390 guest rooms and suites, a massive entertainment plaza and spa, and 60,000 sq. ft. of event space.
While technically the InterContinental Montelucia Resort & Spa is a reinvention of the former Las Posada Resort, the Paradise Valley, Ariz. property is truly a brand-new and impressive offering all its own. The sprawling oasis nestled between Phoenix and Scottsdale, created at a cost of about $250 million, shows off 293 rooms and suites, a spacious spa and 27,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space plus substantial outdoor options—all done in an authentic Andalusian style. The property is scheduled to launch late this summer.
Another fabulously luxurious property—this one slated to open late this year—is the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast in Orange County, Calif. The resort really needs to be seen to be believed, but no expense has been spared in the sprawling enclave that features Northern Italian “Palladin-inspired” architecture, two championship golf courses, a Roman Coliseum-style pool area and ocean views from its 204 bungalow rooms and suites and 128 stylish villas. Planners will especially appreciate the 20,000 sq. ft. of function space spread across two event centers, including a secluded Event Lawn that can host up to 650 for receptions.
Up the coast, InterContinental The Clement Monterey is a brand-new gem right on the water that neighbors the city’s famous aquarium. The first new hotel built in Monterey since the ’80s, The Clement offers 208 guest rooms, more than 15,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, plus a stylish restaurant and spa. The launch follows the February opening of the InterContinental San Francisco, a 32-story eye-catching entry into the Bay Area’s top lodging choices. The downtown property near Moscone Center showcases 550 guest rooms, 43,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the elegant Luce restaurant and a 10-room spa.
When it comes to substantial renovations, the most striking changes may be by a number of properties that have completely remade themselves. Among these resorts are the former La Posada del Albuquerque, set to reopen this fall as Andaluz following a $30-million revamp that will include a mezzanine-level cultural center paying tribute to New Mexico’s museums, cultural institutions, performing arts groups and other culturally important organizations. The hotel will have a new restaurant with Mediterranean cuisine, a rooftop lounge, and a lobby bar featuring live entertainment.
Elsewhere in the Southwest, Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix is making sweeping upgrades and additions anticipated to wrap up by the spring of 2009. The $52-million effort will include a redesign of all 640 guest suites and the addition of 52 Grand Villas; a new lobby will also be constructed with a specialty restaurant and bar, and a former restaurant will be transformed into a private dining facility for meetings and events.
In nearby Scottsdale, the Phoenician has completed substantial upgrades to all 647 guest rooms, the main lobby and tea court, and retail and restaurant venues. The 250-acre resort has also broken ground on a 42,000-square-foot conference facility and ballroom. All told, the massive renovation project will reach a total expense of $70 million.
In Orange County, the Hilton Anaheim is in the middle of a complete upgrade that has improved all 100,000 sq. ft. of the property’s indoor meeting space and will soon make over each of the 1,572 guest rooms. The $60-million project will additionally provide a brand-new lobby area, new restaurants and significant upgrades to the 25,000-square-foot fitness center and spa.
On a more intimate level, San Francisco’s Larkspur Hotel Union Square—formerly The Cartwright—opens this summer after a remodel that has added more modern amenities, an intimate bar (Bar 1915) and meeting spaces that can host from five to 50. The Larkspur Collection will also open Villa Florence in August following a complete interior and exterior makeover, and a yet-to-be-named third San Francisco boutique property in the former location of the Monticello Inn.
Also in S.F., the JW Marriott Union Square has just completed renovations to its lobby, restaurant and public spaces—which followed recent improvements to its 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 337 guest rooms.
On Maui, the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa is moving forward on a multimillion-dollar restoration that will transform all 780 guest rooms with a compelling combination of European and Polynesian décor. The resort’s restaurants and lounges, fitness center, beach and pool, and 50,000-square-foot spa will all benefit from the endeavor.
While some major renovations touch on every aspect of a property, and others focus on luxurious amenities, for some properties it’s all about “business time”—renovating and/or adding to meeting space and other corporate-related aspects. A prime example of this is the Anaheim Marriott, which recently completed a $23-million addition of 25,500 sq. ft. of meeting space, bringing its total function space to more than 81,000 sq. ft. and providing a nice balance to the more than 1,000 guest rooms at the resort.
In Arizona, the Hilton Sedona Resort and Spa has added four new state-of-the-art Executive Meeting Rooms that include soundproof environments, ergonomic chairs, flat-screen plasma TVs and conference speakerphones. The W Hotel San Diego fits this trend as well, with three new cutting-edge meeting spaces and makeovers of the property’s trendy lounge spaces. The three new meeting spaces will add almost 5,000 sq. ft. to total nearly 10,000 sq. ft. of event space at the resort, and these “focus” meeting areas will have 65-inch flat-screen TVs, state-of-the-art A/V and Pop ‘n’ Plug tabletop interconnect boxes and blackout windows.
Chaminade Resort & Spa, the renowned Santa Cruz, Calif. conference center, has completed a lengthy and extensive improvement to its historic property overlooking Monterey Bay. The $15-million upgrade—including $6 million on meeting and conference areas—includes all public areas, restaurant, lounge and guest rooms. In Vegas, New York – New York’s recently redesigned and expanded conventions floor offers more than 21,000 sq. ft. of convenient, adaptable space, part of the major upgrades being made to extensive areas of the property.
And at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, the top two floors and former Equinox rooftop revolving restaurant have been completely remade with business travelers and other high-end guests in mind. The former penthouse restaurant is now the Regency Club Floor and Lounge, a recently opened enclave of superb views, personalized service, business workstations and much more. The hotel’s 16th and 17th floors have been renovated as well, transformed into Regency Club guest rooms that include access to the exclusive Regency Club and ultra-modern upgrades such as a bathroom mirror with built-in TV.
In Bellevue, Wash. the Hyatt Regency is adding a brand-new, 20-story tower that will include 351 guest rooms, an 18,000-square-foot ballroom, a 14,500-square-foot exhibition hall and 150-seat auditorium. “In our market, we are finding the need to be very proactive with technology and state-of-the-art presentation capabilities,” says Jennifer Leavitt, marketing VP at the Bellevue Collection, which represents the property. “Our project was designed with a focus on flexibility for multiple events at one time, from exposition to large seated dinner, all in one location. Unlike some traditional convention centers, our emphasis is on providing facilities in an upscale fashion with both the level of aesthetics of an upscale hotel presentation and the same flexibility of a large exhibition space.”
Luxury is the bottom-line with a number of property upgrades. In Scottsdale, the AAA Five-Diamond Four Seasons Resort at Troon North completed a $17.5-million upgrade that has made the resort even more luxurious. Full-scale enhancements to all 210 guest rooms include the addition of 42-inch flat-screen TVs, custom furniture, local and regional artwork and MP3 docking stations. The lobby has been transformed as well, and a dramatic new restaurant added, Talavera, plus the classy new Onyx Bar & Lounge. Golfers will find something to appreciate as well—the brand-new Callaway Golf Performance Center, one of only 10 in the country, which utilizes a patented performance analysis system using cameras and simulators.
In Hollywood, the Sheraton Universal is undergoing a glamorous remake at an expense of more than $30 million, slated for completion this summer. The upgrades will impact all 451 guest rooms and public spaces, more than 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, several specialty suites and beautiful poolside Lanai rooms. Guest rooms will now include Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bedding, 32-inch TVs and wireless Internet, among other amenities.
The Pacific Palms Resort in Los Angeles has undergone a major transformation and added a new luxury spa and elegant new restaurant, RED. The recently renovated, 650-acre resort shows off 292 stylishly appointed, oversized guest rooms, the recently opened Spa at Pacific Palms and L.A.’s only four-star rated golf experience, with 36 holes of completely refurbished championship golf.
Galvanizing the Guest Rooms
For some renovating properties, it’s mostly about making the accommodations even more, well, accommodating. Take La Posada de Santa Fe, for example, which is completing a $6-million upgrade this summer that has focused on guest rooms and public spaces. The improvements include new carpet, paint, linens, beds, bedding, headboards, some armoires being replaced with credenzas, refinished wood floors, area rugs, decorative pillows, window coverings and flat-panel LCD TVs. Other new additions will be upholstery and lighting, nightstands, desks and decorative lamps. Bathroom improvements will include new energy-efficient fixtures, showers and tile.
At The Fairmont San Francisco, a luxurious refurbishment of all 591 guest rooms was completed in March, including the addition of 37-inch flat-panel TVs and new leather desk chairs. The property also restored its colorful tiki restaurant and bar, The Tonga Room, famous for its indoor rain showers over a small lagoon. Another San Francisco favorite, the Westin St. Francis, has kicked off a $40-million upgrade that will include a $9-million makeover of the 614 guest rooms. The improvements mark the most ambitious renovation the historic property has taken since the reconstruction that followed the 1906 earthquake and fire. Additionally, the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco has begun a $30-million renovation that will include all 1,010 rooms and 18 suites. The project will also improve the lobby, Club Level facilities, and meeting and event space, which will increase to almost 30,000 sq. ft.
Across the bay, Berkeley’s Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center is completing an upgrade of $7.1 million that will improve all guest rooms as well as enhancements to the lobby, guest reception areas and its Bay Grille Restaurant.
A Tale of Two Boomtowns
While glitzier Vegas may get all the press, Reno, Nev. is undergoing plenty of growth as well. The Atlantis Resort Casino has doubled its meeting space and added a world-class spa; the Peppermill Resort Casino is undergoing a $400-million expansion that includes a luxury spa, restaurant and nightclub; and the Grand Sierra Resort is spending more than $90 million upgrading its 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and making countless other improvements.
In the Palm Springs area, eight small desert cities are totaling nearly $2 billion in hotel launches and renovations between 2007 and 2011. Projects include the recently opened Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, an approximately $200-million project with 344 guest rooms, and the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs—slated to open in 2010 with 499 guest rooms, a 25,000-square-foot spa, three restaurants and 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. “This is really an exciting time,” says Mark Graves, director of communications for the Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority. “The sun and the moon and the stars have really all aligned us for us, and it’s truly a landmark period of growth.” Graves is extremely enthusiastic about the upcoming Hard Rock and nearby Mondrian Hotel—also slated for a 2010 launch—helping form a destination corridor between the Palm Springs Convention Center and the city’s acclaimed Art Museum. What gives the region the confidence to move forward with such projects even when the economy is far from its zenith? It’s a philosophy that likely could also be applied to the West as a whole. “There’s a long-term confidence,” Graves says, “that things will turn around for the better.”