|By Jeff Ostrowski, The Palm Beach Post,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 4, 2009 - Downtown West Palm Beach this month gets its first new hotel in nearly 30 years -- and takes a small step toward creating the 1,000 rooms needed to lure bigger conventions.
The 165-room Hyatt Place at 295 Lakeview Ave. officially opens March 19, but the hotel already has begun renting rooms as workers put the finishing touches on the sleek lobby.
Rooms cost $209 for now, but rates will drop to as low as $129 during the summer, said James Hansen, the hotel's director of sales.
The Hyatt Place expects a brisk business, thanks to such upcoming events as the Palm Beach International Boat Show and SunFest, Hansen said.
Downtown West Palm Beach had been poised for a hotel building boom, said Mayor Lois Frankel, but the credit crunch has stalled planned projects.
A Marriott Residence Inn is slated for Hibiscus Street. And NCP Investments of Chicago hopes to turn the Southern Bell building at 326 Fern St. and the Comeau Building at 319 Clematis St. into hotels.
But those projects are on hold amid a freeze in global credit markets.
"I can think of five hotels that would be built right now if it weren't for the financing," Frankel said.
Hyatt Place developer Kolter Commercial secured financing before the credit freeze hit, President Scott Webb said. Kolter Commercial's parent, Kolter Group, built the One City Plaza and Two City Plaza condo towers across the street.
The lack of hotel rooms downtown has limited the size of events the Palm Beach County Convention Center can attract. The city needs about 1,000 new rooms to lure larger conventions, Frankel said.
The Hyatt Place joins the Marriott West Palm Beach, 1001 Okeechobee Blvd., as the only hotels within a short walk of the center.
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