Checking into new digs

A strong regional economy, continuing increases in visitor arrivals, particularly from overseas, and additions to convention facilities are prompting hotel developers to look upon New England's cities with great favor these days.

Boston, Hartford and Providence are the most prominent beneficiaries of the latest boom in hotel development to sweep New England, but some smaller communities are benefiting as well.

Following is a roundup of recent and upcoming developments on New England's lodgings scene. More than 600 hotel rooms were added to Boston's inventory in the summer of 1998, and 16 hotels are scheduled to open their doors in Greater Boston this year, including four in Boston proper. Many more hotel projects are in earlier stages of discussion.

Two major properties made their debut last year in Greater Boston. They are the 427-room Seaport Hotel Boston, which opened in May on the waterfront adjacent to the World Trade Center. The property offers 17,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, a business center, health facility, pool and underground parking. Across the river in Cambridge, the 210-room University Park Hotel Cambridge, a Doubletree-managed property, opened in August.

Among the first new properties to open its doors in Greater Boston this year was a 221-room Marriott Residence Inn, which opened in Kendall Square, Cambridge, in February.

Hotels scheduled to debut later this year in Boston include: the 362-suite Wyndham Boston, located in a landmark Art Deco building downtown; the 63-room Fifteen

Beacon Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel that will occupy a 1902 Beaux Arts structure one block away from the Massachusetts State House, and the 197-room Club Hotel by Doubletree at Bayside Center.

A fall 1999 opening is planned for the 600-room Logan Airport Hilton & Towers. The $100 million hotel will be linked to airport terminals via walkways and will include retail shops and extensive meeting space.

In Providence, a half-dozen hotels that are in various stages of development are expected to boost the city's lodging inventory by about 1,500 rooms over the next several years.

Furthest along of Providence's hotel projects is a 216-room Courtyard by Marriott, which is scheduled to open in spring 2000.

Construction could begin as early as this spring or summer on several other additional Providence properties, including a 265-room Hilton Suites, a 345-room Renaissance Hotel and a 75-room boutique hotel. Also planned are a 343-room Embassy Suites and a 170-room property called the Providence Hotel.

Greater Hartford is anticipating its own boom in hotel development over the next few years. Currently, proposals are in the pipeline for nine additional hotels.

One new Hartford hotel that looks to be a sure thing is a 373-room Westin Hotel that's being planned for downtown. The property will contain about 25,000 square feet of conference space, including a restored neo-Italian Renaissance banking hall that will be linked to the hotel by a glass winter garden. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and developers anticipate the property will open in the first half of 2002.

Also in Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casino is nearing completion of its Grand Pequot Tower, an 824-room hotel that has been opening in phases since 1997. Recent additions to the hotel include 23 luxury villas, and a health spa and indoor pool.

The 120-room Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., completed a multimillion-dollar expansion last year. The addition includes a new spa and sports club that contains a racquetball/squash court, fitness equipment, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. It offers spa treatments, including more than 20 types of massage, body wraps, facials and the like. The property also added 40 deluxe guest rooms and suites.

In New Hampshire, the classic Mount Washington Hotel and Resort, located at the foot of the Presidential Range, this year is extending its season to 12 months for the first time in its history. The resort's facilities and services include 27 holes of golf, 12 clay tennis courts, horseback riding, indoor and outdoor pools, hiking and walking trails, five restaurants and a children's program.

Visitors to New Hampshire can now stay in an original 19th-century Shaker dwelling that has been restored and converted to a 24-room inn. Located in Enfield, the Shaker Inn is furnished with Shaker-style furniture and incorporates modern comforts.

In Maine, the owners of the York Harbor Inn have opened a seven-room property -- the Harbor Cliffs Inn -- next door to the York Harbor Inn. Newly renovated and elegantly furnished, Harbor Cliffs Inn provides oceanview accommodations and working fireplaces in four of its guest rooms.

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