|By Scott Van Voorhis, Boston
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 13, 2008 - The neighborhood around North Station and the new Garden is becoming a hotel hot spot.
City Hall's development arm yesterday signed off on plans by the Boston Development Group for a $160 million mixed-use project on a key Bulfinch Triangle parcel not far from North Station.
The 400,000-square-foot-plus Merano features two hotels, a 153-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 121-room extended-stay TownePlace Suites by Marriott.
Also in the works are 206,000 square feet of office space, 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and 13,000 square feet of ground floor restaurant space.
That brings to five the number of hotels in the emerging neighborhood of condos, apartments, shops and offices around the North Station/Garden transportation and entertainment hub, notes Robert O'Brien, executive director of the Downtown North Association.
In another sign of the area's growing interest to major hotel chains, the Shawmut Inn is now in the process of being converted into a Holiday Inn.
"It is becoming quite the hotel area," O'Brien said.
Hotel chains are drawn to the North Station area by a number of factors. The lineup of games and concerts at the TD Banknorth Garden provides a built-in market, with at least one neighborhood hotel booked full for last night's Celine Dion concert.
With other parts of the downtown full of luxury hotels, the more budget-minded lodgings taking shape in the North Station area are also proving a hit among business travelers looking for lower-cost alternatives.
"This will be huge," said Jessica Shumaker, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, of the new hotels near North Station. "They will be moderately priced. We don't have too many hotels in that price point."
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