Starwood Prominent in Mixed Use

Selecting Westin as the hotel brand for the $210-million World Famous Bridge Street project in Huntsville, AL brings a premium of 15 percent to 20 percent in sales price for the condominiums in the hotel, O&S Holdings managing member Gary Safady said during a well-attended panel at the recent Inaugural Symposium on Financing, Developing and Operating Condo Hotels in Miami.

Former Kinko's executive Safady, who spearheaded development of the Huntsville project for his Los Angeles-based firm, was one of several panelists discussing “Mixed-Use Properties: Working Condo Hotels Into the Equation” Sept. 8 at the Conrad Miami. He was not the only one to cite a Starwood brand, however: Marty Collins, president of Gatehouse Capital Corp., noted his company is involved in developing a W in downtown Dallas in which the condominiums are sold out and is planning a similar, mixed-use W in Hollywood. The W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences is the first W in Texas and will feature 251 hotel rooms, 144 condo units and a 5,000-square-foot Bliss spa. It is set to open in the spring.

Safady said ADR in the Westin Huntsville Hotel & Residences in the rapidly growing Alabama region will be 30 percent higher than the market average because of amenities like a spa, retail and theater, and “the condo buyers in that community have exceeded our expectations.”

According to the Huntsville Times, Bridge Street will include nearly 500,000 square feet of retail space, a 16-screen theater, a performing arts center, office buildings and the state's first Westin. The 11-story hotel will include 200 rooms and 45 luxury condominiums on the top five floors. The first phase of the project, including the hotel, is scheduled for completion at the end of 2006, the newspaper said.

Chris Stanley, director of franchise development with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, told the Times that that Westin will be the first Westin prototype to open with residences on the top floors. Similar Westins are now in development in Virginia Beach and Tampa, Stanley said.

Safady and other panelists suggested that mixed-use projects are incredibly complex. Issues include ownership of the various components — Collins said residences in condo hotels are individually owned, while the developer retains ownership of other components such as office, retail and parking — cost sharing and operations. Rick Kirkbride, the moderator, said that he began his career as a hotel lawyer, expanding into the timeshare and fractional markets. As chairman of the resort, restaurant and recreation practice group at Los Angeles firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, he's involved in 35 to 40 new-build hotel projects. Thirty-three have residential components.

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