Marriott hotel starts going up at harbor

207-room Courtyard scheduled to open next summer

Hospitality industry

July 21, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

Dump trucks, cement mixers and cranes have collected east of the Inner Harbor for a second time this year, ready to sprout steel and concrete from a dirt patch and add much-needed hotel rooms downtown.

H&S Properties Development Co.'s Courtyard by Marriott, now under construction, will give the city 207 additional hotel rooms. If it is finished on schedule next summer, it will be the first major lodging project completed in Baltimore in a decade.

The $20.5 million Courtyard by Marriott also becomes the second of nine planned hotels to begin construction, joining a 750-room convention hotel that H&S Properties -- the real estate arm of baking mogul John Paterakis Sr.'s business empire -- is developing less than a half-mile away.

The latter project, planned as a Wyndham International, is scheduled for completion in late 2000 or early 2001.

"This is a product type that is very under-represented in Baltimore," said Michael S. Beatty, an H&S Properties vice president. "It'll be very high-end, very urban, with high ceilings and nicer finishes. It's going to be Marriott's 1999 prototype for the Courtyard, designed to attract the transient and corporate traveler that wants a mid-priced yet quality hotel."

Rather than compete, the two hotels being developed so close together likely will complement each other, Beatty said. "They are totally separate product types," he said. "If anything, they'll help each other."

The other seven hotel projects -- including a 250-room Ritz-Carlton and a 267-room Embassy Suites -- are in various stages of planning.

In all, the seven would contain 2,600 rooms.

None of them is likely to be started in the near future, however, because of financial constraints that leave some analysts to wonder whether they will be built.

Marriott officials said they hope the Courtyard will connect the western edges of the Inner Harbor to the eastern portion.

"We're looking at the Inner Harbor's future potential," said Mara Begley, a Marriott spokeswoman. "And we believe this Courtyard can help build a link between Camden Yards, the Convention Center and Fells Point."

Rooms in the Courtyard by Marriott are expected to go for roughly $110 a night.

It will be Marriott's fourth such project in the metropolitan area, joining Courtyards in Columbia, Linthicum and Hunt Valley. In all, the Bethesda-based company operates 406 Courtyard hotels nationwide with more than 56,000 rooms.

H&S Properties and partner Stormont Trice Corp., an Atlanta lodging operating company that also is its partner in the planned 750-room hotel under construction nearby, intend, upon completion, to sell the Inner Harbor East Courtyard to Crestline Capital Corp. for $20.5 million.

Crestline, spun off from hotel real estate owner Host Marriott Corp. in December, owns 11 Residence Inn by Marriott projects and 31 senior living facilities. The Inner Harbor East project will become the first Courtyard it owns.

`Excellent location'

"The returns for the project look very good, and we think it's an excellent location," said Heather Scanlon, a Crestline Capital spokeswoman.

Construction financing for the Courtyard is being provided by the Bank of Maryland.

H&S Properties has a pledge from Patriot American Hospitality Inc. to buy the Wyndham hotel, but the Dallas-based company's financial troubles have clouded that agreement. Several hotel industry experts predict that Patriot American -- and possibly Wyndham -- will pull out of the project.

Office space, garage

In addition to the hotel, the 12-story Courtyard project will contain 170,000 square feet of office space, a 375-space parking garage and a 45,000-square-foot Fresh Fields gourmet grocery store. The project's total cost is expected to be $55 million.

Fast-growing Sylvan Learning Systems Inc., which maintains its corporate headquarters at Inner Harbor East, is considering leasing space in the office building, which also is expected to contain an upscale coffee and wine shop, Beatty said.

"Hotels are very difficult deals to get done," he said. "But we feel we have the best location for the products we're doing."

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