Occupancy rates up; more hotel projects checking in

GTECH books about 7,000 hotel rooms each year for its international associates, so any growth in hotel space in Rhode Island should be good news.

The lottery giant already negotiates with The Westin Providence and the Crowne Plaza in Warwick, and it just struck a deal with the newest hotel, Hotel Providence.

The business community believes the addition of more hotel rooms will be a great asset to companies in Rhode Island, not just because it will make booking easier, but the competition is expected to drive down room rates.

In Providence, room rates average about $140.31, in Warwick, $95.05, the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau reports.

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The hotel occupancy rates in Providence in 2004 were 73 percent – up 2.8 percent from 2003. In Warwick, occupancy rates were 74.7 percent – up 4.6 percent from the previous year, the bureau reports.

There are currently 2,500 hotel rooms in Greater Providence and about 1,200 hotel rooms within walking distance from the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Greater Providence is booming with hotel construction and future plans. From the $62 million, 272-room Marriott Renaissance Hotel that’s expected to breathe new life into the dilapidated Masonic Temple, to the planned transformation of the Holiday Inn into a Hilton Hotel with condos, Providence’s projects represent a potential of more than 750 additional hotel rooms.
Denver-based developer Sage Hospitality Resources plans to transform the long-vacant and unfinished Masonic Temple into a Marriott Renaissance Hotel connected to the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. The hotel is scheduled to open in late summer of 2006 and plans to feature 10,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space and a ground-floor destination restaurant and lounge.

Cranston-based Procaccianti Group, a hospitality management and commercial and residential real estate company, plans to renovate and expand the Westin, adding 200 more rooms and 60 high-end condos in a new tower connected to the existing building.

The company will also renovate and convert the Holiday Inn downtown into a Hilton Hotel with condos.

The Westin and Residences Providence would have amenities of a four-star hotel and luxury condo high-rise. The first level of the new structure will be retail, most likely restaurants. The higher floors would be hotel rooms, with the condos ranging in price from $600,000 to $1 million on the top floors. The hotel and condos would be open some time in 2007. Construction is slated to begin in May.

The new Hilton Hotel and Residences Downtown Providence include a renovation of the existing 274 guest rooms and a new 300-foot tower with multi-level parking, a full spa and health center with swimming pool, 40 new rooms and 150 condos on the upper floors. The tower would be built on the current location of the parking garage, which will be torn down.

Prices will range from $450 to $750 per square foot and unit sizes will range from 900 to 1,600 square feet.

The $15 million Hotel Providence, a new boutique hotel developed by Stanley Weiss, opened in February. Its three conjoined buildings on the corner of Mathewson and Westminster streets have 80 guest rooms. It’s the first European-style boutique hotel in the city, and features a 2,200-square-foot ballroom, three conference rooms and L’Epicureo Ristorante.

Dolce Villa, another smaller boutique hotel in DePasquale Plaza in Providence’s Federal Hill, recently opened, adding 14 suites to the hotel room tally.

Vincent Mesolella announced recently he has revived his plans for a 250-room all-suites hotel on the site of the Fogarty Building downtown, across from the convention center. James Procaccianti plans to help the local developer finance the $2.8 million hotel project. The Providence Redevelopment Agency, which owns the site, approved the sales agreement about a month ago. Mesolella plans to raze the building. The purchase would be official on June 30 and Mesolella would have to start construction within 120 days of closing, and finish the project within two years.

The Hilton Garden Inn Providence Airport/Warwick is currently under construction, but reservations are being accepted now for dates starting on June 1.

The hotel will offer 160 guest rooms, a 24-hour Pavilion Pantry convenience mart, three meeting rooms and a restaurant.

Two other potential projects – a hotel on parcel 2 in the Capital Center district downtown and a hotel/condo combination along Allens Avenue – could bring hundreds more hotel rooms to Providence in the coming years.

“Hotels are the classic chicken and egg,” said Nick Iselin, director of development and construction for Intercontinental Developers, which is building two condo towers on parcel 2 downtown. “The things that drive economic development and the economy in cities, like conventions and events, are the things that need hotels. Occupancy and average daily rates are up. It’s a good hotel market.”

The addition of more rooms to the Providence/Warwick area will allow bigger meetings and conventions to be booked at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

More leisure travelers will also be able to stay in the area and spend money with local merchants, putting more tax dollars into the economy.