|By David Kaplan, Houston
ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 8, 2007 - A downtown building vacant since 1988 will get a $100 million face-lift and be turned into an Omni luxury hotel.
Songy Partners acquired the 28-story Sheraton-Lincoln Plaza tower at 711 Polk and Louisiana in a joint venture with Omni Hotels for $15 million.
The redeveloped hotel will have about 450 suites, fine dining restaurants and more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
It will also feature a 13,000-square-foot wellness/fitness center with a spa and salon.
The lower levels of the building will be opened up with glass, to make it more accessible to pedestrians, said David Songy, CEO of the Atlanta-based firm.
Gensler & Associates is the project architect. Cushman & Wakefield brokered the deal.
The renovations are scheduled to begin in late 2007, and the hotel is expected to open by mid-2009.
"It's a very attractive opportunity," Songy said. "Houston is an outstanding market, and downtown is growing rapidly and in need of high-quality hotel rooms."
Mike Deitemeyer, president of Irving-based Omni Hotels, said he is excited about downtown Houston for a number of reasons, including the Central Business District's strong office market and the Houston Pavilions project under construction.
Noting that the Omni already has two hotels in Houston, one in the Galleria area and one on the west side, Deitemeyer said his company typically locates its hotels in central business districts.
"Clearly there's a need for new hotels," said John Keeling, senior vice president of PKF, a hotel and restaurant consulting firm.
"Downtown Houston is underhoteled by a large number, and this is the kind it needs -- a large, full-service hotel," he said. Houston has 4,751 hotel rooms downtown, compared to almost 12,000 downtown rooms in San Antonio, Keeling noted.
Hotels like the proposed Omni will help make Houston more competitive for convention business, Keeling said.
PKF is working with Omni on the project. Occupancy rates in the Houston area are expected to rise from 67.5 percent in 2006 to 69 percent in 2007 and to 70 percent in 2008, according to PKF.
Average daily rates in the area are projected to rise from $96.62 in 2006 to $101.50 this year and $105.50 in 2008.
The Sheraton-Lincoln Plaza was developed in 1962 as a mixed-use hotel and office building. The developer was Lincoln-Liberty Life Insurance, a company headed by the late Lloyd Bentsen before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Bentsen had insisted that the Sheraton be integrated, he told the Chronicle in 1991, making it one of the first integrated hotels in Houston.
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