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Lodgian, Waterford Hotel Group and Depalma Hotel Corp Among the Applicants to Operate
New Convention Center with Two Hotels in Albany, New York

By Tim O'Brien, Albany Times Union, N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

August 1, 2007 --ALBANY -- The operators of the Crowne Plaza and the county-owned Times Union Center are among those wishing to run the proposed Albany Convention Center or its connected hotels.

Project Manager Al Sorrentino announced the names Tuesday of the six applicants who filed to run all or some components of the proposed $300 million project in downtown Albany.

SMG of Philadelphia, which runs the county's entertainment arena, has applied to run just the convention center.

Lodgian Inc. of Atlanta, operator of the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Albany, is seeking to run the two proposed hotels.

Local firm BBL Development Group teamed with Ocean Hospitalities Inc. of Portsmouth, N.H., to propose they run just the hotels. Ocean Hospitalities owns or operates more than 120 hotels including some under the Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, and Hilton Garden Inn names.

Two other firms applied to run both operations: Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. of White Plains, which owns the Sheraton and Westin hotels; and Waterford Hotel Group of Waterford, Conn.

DePalma Hotel Corp. of Arlington, Tex., applied to run either the hotels and convention center or just the hotels.

Terry Bickhardt, president and CEO of Waterford Hotel Group, was the only one to return calls Tuesday.

"We were the master developers of the Adriaen's Landing projects in Hartford," he said. "We designed and operate the convention center for the state of Connecticut."

The company also designed and operates a Marriott there. The Albany project calls for the state authority to own the center and the hotels, with the operators leasing the hotel space.

Bickhardt said the Hartford center has exceeded the expectations of its original marketing study.

"Our experience in Hartford, I think, would be very similar to Albany," he said. "You have a great built-in infrastructure of demand because of the state capitol there and being able to share in the association business. It's almost rare or hard to believe there isn't a premier meeting facility in the city."

The project would include two hotels and the convention hall. One firm would manage both a full-service hotel with 250 rooms and a 150-room hotel with more limited amenities.

The center itself would include a 60,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 25,000-square-foot room that could be used for multiple purposes, and a 22,350-square-foot ballroom. A skyway would connect it to the county-owned Times Union Center for additional exhibit space.

The project is proposed for a site on Hudson Avenue between Liberty and South Pearl streets.

Sorrentino said a focus group led by board member Brad Rosenstein, owner of Jack's Oyster House, will examine the proposals. Potential operators only provided their qualifications to do the work.

Once their applications are reviewed, the convention authority will then give the finalists a request for proposals that will detail their plans for the facilities and the financial arrangements.

"These are just their qualifications, their experience," Sorrentino said. "We're going to go through these, and we're going to bring some of them for interviews."

Tim O'Brien can be reached at 454-5092 or by e-mail at tobrien@timesunion.com.

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To see more of the Albany Times Union, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesunion.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

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