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Starwood Vacation Ownership Acquires 28.7 Acres Inside the Desert Willow
 Golf Resort in Palm Desert, California; New Timeshare Development
 Expected to Carry the Westin Brand

By Kimberly Pierceall, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

June 28, 2006 -- Starwood Hotels & Resorts is buying 28.7 acres inside the Desert Willow Golf Resort in Palm Desert to build its second timeshare property in the Coachella Valley.

Canada's Intrawest Resort Club Group sold the land for an undisclosed price to the hotel company's timeshare division, Starwood Vacation Ownership. The timeshares will be part of the company's Westin brand.

The company's plans include luxury villas, a swimming pool, a clubhouse, a game room and a fitness center, according to a statement from Starwood.

Intrawest has 88 timeshare units and plans to expand to 115 units with remaining land it owns, said company President Jim Gibbons. He said the original plan in 1996 called for 300 units, with an option of building another 300.

"The city was very enthusiastic about building a 1,000- room hotel and an associated convention center," he said. But in 1996, "the market was not very friendly for that kind of adventure."

His company re focused on operating a smaller timeshare property, which gave it excess unused land to sell to Starwood.

"The site is the premium site in the desert, and the sooner it's fully built out, the happier we'll be," Gibbons said.

The city of Palm Desert and the owners of the golf courses and clubhouse at Desert Willows have separately started negotiating exclusively with Los Angeles-based Triyar Hospitality LLC to develop Starwood's W Hotel on about 17 acres in the golf resort.

For several years, the city has sought a five -star hotel for that location, but the post-Sept. 11 tourism downturn caused a lack of hotel investors that delayed interest.

Starwood also owns and operates the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Villas adjacent to the Host Marriott Corporation-owned Westin Mission Hills Resort.


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Copyright (c) 2006, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.

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