Talk about pre-wedding jitters. After a six-week delay, the four-star Westin hotel in Annapolis officially opens today, 10 days before Tara Prieto and Joe Conte's nuptials.
Their 300-plus guests will be dancing in the hotel's ballroom, which still was being painted yesterday.
Prieto plans to tour the roughly $80 million luxury hotel this week. She hopes that will help ease her mind after the hotel missed its pushed-back opening date of July 12 . Guests, who had trouble making reservations, are all booked at the hotel.
"Now I'm starting to get that `I'm going to throw-up feeling,'" said Prieto, a stylist in Annapolis.
Prieto's affair will be the first major event at the hotel, the centerpiece of Park Place, a $250 million upscale condominium, office and retail project that is the crown jewel of revitalization of the West Street gateway to Annapolis.
"It is the anchor project that we always wanted to see," said Mike Miron, director of the city's Office of Economic Development.
Delays in construction have been caused by a shortage of raw materials and labor, the downside to the region's busy commercial construction market, said J. Jeremy Parks, vice president of developer Jerome J. Parks Cos. The problems have been an "ongoing frustration," he said.
"Every day, you're not open, you're losing money," Parks said, although he could not give an estimate of the amount.
The 225-room Westin hotel has lost $165,000 in business because it was not ready to open June 1, said Sharon McKennon, director of sales and marketing. An FBI group had to be relocated to a sister hotel in Alexandria, Va. A wedding scheduled for July 7 had to be moved to Baltimore. The Westin picked up the $25,000 tab, she said.
The first phase of the condominium construction will be finished later this summer, Parks said. So far, 20 people already have moved into finished units.
The first office building is near completion. Sensorcom Inc., an engineering service firm headquartered on Defense Highway in Annapolis, will move in later this week. Pharmathene, a biotech company in the county's business incubator, the Chesapeake Innovation Center, will move in a few weeks.
Construction on the second office building will start next month and should be completed by July 2008, Parks said.
Retailers including Starbucks, Carpaccio restaurant, an Aveda salon and Morton's Steakhouse will be moving in during August and September.
The redevelopment of the West Street gateway has been in the making since 1985, when city officials took a look at revitalizing the corridor between Church Circle and the intersection of West Street and Spa Road. They eliminated antiquated land-use and zoning laws and created a mixed-use zoning district. They created incentives for commercial development and planned public parking garages.
A recession in 1992 stunted growth, but in 1995, city officials took another look at jump-starting development by planning $25 million in infrastructure improvements, including installing tree-lined, bricked sidewalks. They moved utilities underground and put in new water and sewer pipes.
After the 125-room O'Callaghan Hotel was completed in 2002, the corridor saw a burst of retail development. The West Village Group redeveloped four properties fronting the new Knighton Garage on outer West Street, with retail on the first floor and office and residential space on the upper floors. The $20 million Severn Bank building opened in November at 200 Westgate Circle.
City officials still are calculating the economic impact of the Park Place project, Miron said. By the end of the year, at least 250 new households will be established along the corridor and this will double over the next three years, according to the economic development office. The average annual household income will be more than $130,000, well above the city's current average of $77,000.
The Park Place condominiums start at $500,000 for a one-bedroom and go up to $1.5 million for a three-bedroom unit. Given the slowdown in the housing market, Parks said, he is happy that 70 percent of the 208 condominiums have been sold.
The Westin Annapolis hired 140 employees, most of whom are full-time, McKennon said. About 30 of them are salaried employees, and the rest are hourly.
Yesterday, staffers got last-minute fittings of their uniforms and busily unpacked banquet chairs and other last-minute deliveries. Workers went room-to-room to test phones and door locks. Others prepared floral displays and painted.
The late opening has not hurt wedding and gala bookings. After Prieto's wedding, the hotel is booked solid on weekends through New Year's Eve, when the hotel will host a 400-guest wedding, said Cathy Sandler, director of catering and convention services for the hotel.
"We've already sold our 2007 catering budget," she said.