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 Tucson to Get a 'Boutique Hotel';  Aloft Label May
Add Hip New Facility in 2007
By Levi J. Long, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

April 6, 2006 - A hip new hotel, offering urban-style loft guest rooms, is coming to Tucson.

The Old Pueblo is among five metropolitan areas that will be the first homes of the new Aloft brand when the hotel debuts in early 2007, according to hotel spokesmen with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

The company operates several chains including the Sheraton, Westin, Four Points and luxury W Hotel brands.

After having success with its "boutique hotel" concept, offering high-end and modern design at W, Starwood announced Aloft as its newest label in September.

Where in the Tucson area it will place the new hotel, however, remains a secret the company is trying to keep.

Taking its cue from W, Aloft is offering an alternative to the staid hotel room, said Jack Yeaton, a senior account executive for New York-based LaForce + Stevens.

Plans for Aloft rooms include offering a design mimicking an urban loft, with nine-foot ceilings and oversized windows. Other plans include offering wireless Internet access, a workspace with an MP3 docking station, a flat panel television and a large designer bathroom with oversized showers and spa-like amenities.

"The entire project is infused with the DNA of W (hotels)," Yeaton said. "Aloft will offer high design without a high price point." Rooms at W typically start at about $329 a night while the price range for Aloft will be comparable to a night at the Courtyard by Marriott, Yeaton said. An Internet search at Tucson's two Courtyard by Marriott's listed rooms between $159 and $229.

The company touts planned amenities at Aloft as an "energetic lounge scene," with landscaped patios, a bar and drink area tentatively titled "Relax," a 24-hour convenience store called "Re:Fuel" and a fitness center called, "Train."

Though specifics aren't available, Jim Kloiber, Aloft's spokesman, said Starwood is committed to bringing Aloft to Tucson. "At this point, we're not giving out information on an exact date, or location," Kloiber said, by phone from Geneva, Switzerland. "We're still in the process of developing with our teams. It's still in the early stages of planning."

Starwood anticipates breaking ground nationwide later this year and opening in early 2007, with 500 properties worldwide expected by 2012.

The company is targeting "suburban communities" near San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, and Boston as other first-round locations for Aloft. Five franchise applications are also in development in Phoenix, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, N.C., and Chicago.

Aloft is avoiding city centers for the new hotels. Instead Starwood is "looking at the notion of reinventing the roadside hotel," Yeaton said, pointing to the Courtyard by Marriott as another hotel in the roadside category.

"Tucson is in line with the concept for Aloft," Kloiber said. "It's about bringing an affordable and stylish hotel option to the area. Starwood feels there is a customer base there (in Tucson)."

Following on the W brand and bringing the urban feel to a hotel, could draw in a younger market, said Cheryl Cothran, director of the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University..

"They are remaking that old tire and marketing it to a new generation," she said. "Hotels are competitive and are trying to stay ahead. This would work in their best interest to place the hotel near the University (of Arizona) or where young people gather."

Though new boutique hotels haven't been built in Tucson, others in the city are trying out the concept, said Kimberly Schmitz, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Among them are room renovations at the Omni Tucson National Resort and Spa and the Clarion Santa Rita Hotel & Suites Downtown, which is undergoing a $40 million renovation.

"The (Aloft) hotel won't be a draw for people but will be a benefit for Tucson," Schmitz said. "It's an extra benefit for the people who are already planning to visit our destination."


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Copyright (c) 2006, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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