|By Rachel Stone, San Antonio
Express-NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Oct. 24, 2006 - The city of Irving wanted a small luxury hotel to crown its $600 million plan to build a high-end entertainment and convention center.
So Irving city officials turned to San Antonio hotel entrepreneur Pat Kennedy.
Kennedy has agreed to build the second Watermark Hotel & Spa on a 40-acre tract adjacent to Las Colinas, a master-planned community inside the Irving city limits.
"They wanted a top-quality hotel, but small," Kennedy said. "This is our chance to move the brand forward." The first Watermark, which has 99 rooms, opened in San Antonio in December 2003. Irving-based Omni Hotels bought it last February, along with Kennedy's 337-room La Mansion del Rio Hotel -- the Watermark's sister property.
But Kennedy retained ownership of all trademark rights to the Watermark.
The hotel ranked fifth among Texas hotels in the second quarter of 2006, with average nightly revenues per room of $224.81 and a 74.6 percent occupancy rate, according to Source Strategies Inc.
It has the highest rate of revenues per room in San Antonio, and it has gained worldwide popularity.
Readers of Conde Nast Traveler chose the Watermark as the No. 2 hotel in the United States for the magazine's Readers Choice Awards issue, which hits newsstands today. The Watermark beat out the St. Regis Hotel in New York City, which came in third, and was second only to Chicago's The Peninsula.
"It's the kind of thing that's really worked on the River Walk, and I think it's going to be very successful in Dallas as well," Kennedy said.
The new hotel will be a bit larger, with 120 guest rooms and about 20,000 square feet of meeting space. But it will offer the same high-end spa services that made the San Antonio hotel so popular, Kennedy said.
The new Watermark also will include 30 or 40 "very fine" condominiums, ranging between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet.
The Irving convention facility -- Las Colinas LIVE! -- will abut Lake Carolyn in affluent Las Colinas and is expected to draw world-class musicians and theatrical performances, Kennedy said.
It will include a concert hall, an equestrian arena, high-end retail and restaurants amid an atmosphere similar to the River Walk or New Orleans' French Quarter, he said.
The city expects to finalize its plans in December and begin construction on the project in April. It's expected to open as early as spring 2009.
Dallas-based independent hotel consultant Henry Feldman, who once worked for Kennedy, called him a "visionary." "He has a very hot new hotel concept, and I'm sure he'll do very well with it in Dallas," Feldman said.
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