- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Recent deals among Washington’s hotel owners show that the industry is gaining strength as a growth segment of the local real estate market.

“The hotel industry is on the rise,” said Sandy Paul, national research director for Alexandria real estate information firm Delta Associates. “Investors are looking to put money into hotels, which they weren’t willing to do a couple of years ago.”

Washington-area hotel occupancies rose 1 percent through November 2005 over a year earlier to 73.2 percent, according to Smith Travel Research, a Hendersonville, Tenn., hotel information company.

“I think the new convention center certainly is playing a big role in that,” said Chris Knudson, spokesman for the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The 2.3 million-square-foot Washington Convention Center is bringing in more business travelers and tourists than Washington’s 26,000 hotel rooms can accommodate, Mr. Knudson said.

Among the recent hotel deals:

• Marriott International is joining with RLJ Development, which is owned by D.C. cable television executive Robert L. Johnson, to put together an estimated $500 million in financing for a headquarters hotel next to the Washington Convention Center.

Although several hotels occupy the nearby space, the headquarters hotel along Ninth Street Northwest would be designed as the primary housing facility for convention center visitors, with more than 1,400 rooms.

Marriott executives have met with D.C. Council members to discuss their proposal, but no agreement has been reached.

• LaSalle Hotel Properties is acquiring Washington’s Holiday Inn Downtown at 1155 14th St. NW for $44.6 million, the latest of several additions to LaSalle’s luxury hotel collection.

Its other local properties include the Topaz Hotel, Hotel Rouge, Hotel Madera and Hotel Helix.

• Bethesda developer Farr/Curtis/Walton Ltd. opened the 385-room Embassy Suites Hotel at 900 10th St. NW, little more than one block from the Washington Convention Center.

In other news …

• Georgetown firm Hickok Warner Cole Architects is changing its name to Hickok Cole Architects. Last month, Hickok Cole started work on an 11-story building at 1050 K St. NW that the developers plan to lease to mid-sized law firms and associations. It is being designed with “green features” to reduce energy consumption.

• Bucolic Lancaster County, Pa., is in an uproar over a plan to build a $137 million hotel and convention center that opponents say is financially unsound.

Developers want to build the 300-room Marriott hotel and convention center in Lancaster’s Penn Square. Opponents have organized County Taxpayers Against the Convention Center.

The group filed a lawsuit last month accusing the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority of “a glaring lack of transparency or public accountability.”

“The main concern is that it was a project that was originally expected to cost $60 million or $70 million; it has now surpassed $137 million,” said Robert Edwin Field, a local real estate developer.

• Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tramstack@washingtontimes.com.

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