- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

A Florida company will spend $8.5 million to turn the Town Center Hotel in Silver Spring, Md., into a Hilton, in anticipation of a wave of new business travelers to the area.

Milestone Hospitality International, a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company, said yesterday it will add more than 30 new rooms to the hotel and install new carpeting and furniture throughout the building.

The company also plans to put computers and other technology equipment in the hotel's meeting rooms and make guest rooms Internet-accessible.

"We want to make sure it is as comfortable for the business traveler as it is for the leisure traveler," said Lea Ann Kish, Milestone's chief executive.

Ms. Kish predicted the remodeled hotel will attract primarily business travelers, including visitors to the new headquarters of Discovery Communications Inc. being built two blocks away.

The Town Center Hotel opened in 1964. It has about 230 rooms and 18,500 square feet of meeting space. When the renovation is complete, it will feature 262 rooms and 21,000 square feet of meeting space.

Milestone said it recently bought the hotel from an Atlanta owner. It would not disclose the purchase price.

The project will give the D.C. area its 14th Hilton, according to Hilton Hotels Corp. of Beverly Hills, Calif.

It will be the first Hilton for Milestone. The company operates 15 hotels, primarily Holiday Inn and Days Inn franchises, in the United States.

Denisa Protani, spokeswoman for the Maryland Hotel and Motel Association, said tech-savvy business travelers are forcing hotels across the nation to install Internet hookups in rooms.

"The industry is upgrading by leaps and bounds," she said.

Other local hotels undergoing renovation include the 240-room Wyndham Bristol Hotel in the District, which is getting a $10 million upgrade, including Internet hookups and fancy decor.

Sander Mednick, chief executive of Milestone's parent company, Milestone Capital Corp., said "every penny" of the money to remodel the Town Center is being held in escrow.

"This is not pie in the sky. It's going to happen," he said.

The Hilton in Silver Spring is the third Maryland hotel project announced this week. Baltimore-based Skye Hospitality LLC said Monday it will build two hotels near the Arundel Mills shopping mall in Anne Arundel County.

The hotel is the first announced since Montgomery County began a campaign in 1998 to revitalize Silver Spring, a once-decaying suburb with about 33,000 residents.

Key to the revitalization has been cable-television giant Discovery Communications, which will relocate its headquarters from Bethesda to a 320-foot office tower on Georgia Avenue.

Discovery is expected to employ between 1,800 and 2,000 workers in Silver Spring.

New retailers and restaurants in the town include a Baja Fresh Mexican Grill restaurant and a Fresh Fields Markets grocery store.

A Borders bookstore and multiplex cinemas are also planned.

In addition, the American Film Institute is slated to renovate the historic Silver Theater on Colesville Road.

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