|By Chris Churchill, Times Union, Albany,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 09, 2011--ALBANY -- The downtown Crowne Plaza -- the largest hotel in the region -- will become a Hilton as it undergoes a multi-million dollar renovation outlined earlier this year.
The move to a new brand, confirmed by a Hilton spokesman Thursday, follows last summer's decision by an Albany economic development panel to approve a $14.3 million, 30-year tax break for the property.
At the time of the deal, the hotel's owners told the city that the arrangement -- a replacement for an existing tax break that would have expired in 2023 -- would allow them to invest at least $10 million in a facility that's showing its age, even as it remains a key downtown asset.
"It brings in a significant amount of business," Michael Yevoli, the city's director of planning and economic development, said Thursday. "And it's hundreds of jobs."
The renovation is scheduled to begin next year and conclude in 2013, according to documents submitted to the city's Industrial Development Agency.
The 384-rooom hotel on State Street, a vital downtown corridor, opened in 1981 as a Hilton and is now owned by Albany Hotel Inc., a subsidiary of Lone Start Real Estate Fund, a Texas-based private equity fund.
The Crowne Plaza will revert back to being a Hilton affiliate this month and will become fully branded under the name next year, said John Forrest Ales, a Hilton spokesman.
That will make the downtown property the city's third Hilton, along with locations on New Scotland Avenue, near Albany Medical Center, and Washington Avenue, across from the University at Albany.
Under the IDA agreement, the hotel will pay $20.3 million to the city, school district and county in the years leading to 2042.
But without the agreement, the hotel's taxes would have spiked in 2023, and Yevoli said the hotel wanted an arrangement to prevent that before going ahead with the renovation.
Occupancy statistics suggest the hotel has struggled to compete with increased competition -- and might benefit from a makeover.
The Crowne Plaza's occupancy rate, according to numbers supplied by the hotel, dropped from 73.6 percent in 2005 to 59.8 percent last year.
Reach Chris Churchill at 454-5442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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