|By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 14, 2005 - The hotel slated to rise next to Palm Beach County's convention center will be a Westin affiliate and will be designed by the same architect that crafted the Westin Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, county officials said Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the county, the city of West Palm Beach, and CityPlace Partners, settled a thorny dispute over development rights that paved the way for the 400-room hotel to be built, improving the market profile of the convention center.
Many meeting planners like convention centers that have adjacent hotels because meetings are easier to run and more logistically efficient.
Ocean Properties, a Delray Beach firm controlled by the Walsh family, won the right to develop and run the hotel.
"This may be one small investment for the Walsh family, but it's one giant step for Palm Beach County," quipped Commission Chairman Tony Masilotti at a news conference announcing the chain affiliation for the hotel.
The county is still negotiating with Ocean Properties on a development agreement, and opening of the hotel may not occur until 2008.
"We look forward to having a great convention center," West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel said.
Westin is a mid-to-upper tier hotel brand that is part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. There are 136 other Westins, including 82 in North America.
The company's signature is its "Heavenly Bed," a combination of comfortable mattress, pillows and linens that has been widely copied since it was introduced in 1999.
Westin was picked in 2001 to run the then-new 998-room Diplomat Resort in Hollywood. It also has a 293-room hotel in the Cypress Creek section of Fort Lauderdale.
The 39-story, twin-towered Diplomat, which is distinguished by a six-story hole between the towers just above the lobby level, was designed by architect John Nichols, of the Coral Gables-based firm Nichols Brosch Sandoval.
His firm also designed the Westin Fort Lauderdale, the Coconut Grove Ritz Carlton, and is at work on a 75-story condominium project in downtown Miami.
Tom McMurrian, a vice president of Ocean Properties, said various designs and site plans are still under discussion.
"I promise you Ocean Properties will do everything we can in the next few years to get this hotel open," McMurrian said.
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