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Hines Interests has been selected by the Houston City Council to develop a 1,200-room convention hotel in the downtown near the Astros’ new Enron Field.

The hotel, which is touted as a way for the city to attract larger conventions, is scheduled to be complete in late 2003. Mayor Lee Brown says the hotel should be ready in time for Houston to be able to host Super Bowl XXXVIII in January 2004.

City council also selected the San Francisco-based Gensler & Associates architecture firm to oversee the architecture of the hotel. Arquitectonica, a Miami-based firm, will be the design architect for the high-rise project.

“In Hines and Gensler, we have employed two firms with strong local ties who bring a lot to the table,” says Brown. “They will help us build a fabulous convention headquarters hotel that will be instrumental in bringing many new visitors to Houston and making Houston a premier destination city.”

The hotel will be connected via a sky bridge to the existing George R. Brown Convention Center on the eastern edge of downtown Houston. A 1,500-vehicle parking garage will also be a part of the $200 convention hotel project.

The hotel project is being managed by Houston Convention Center Hotel Corp., a nonprofit corporation created by city council. Former Mayor Bob Lanier, who developed thousands of apartment units through his private Landar Corp. before serving as mayor, is chairman of the hotel corporation.

Houston’s downtown hotel market is tight and room rates are high. In June, the downtown hotel market had an occupancy rate of 72.9%, up from 63.9% in June 1999. The average daily room rate in downtown Houston was $155.01 in June, up 11.2% from June 1999, according to PKF Consulting.

Several other downtown hotels are under construction in Houston, including a Ritz-Carlton, Crowne Plaza, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn and Holiday Inn Express. Analysts say all of these hotels could benefit from the convention center hotel’s presence because it opens the door to conventions that had previously rejected Houston due to the absence of a big block of hotel rooms with nearby meeting space. The American Medical Association’s annual convention reportedly has been interested in Houston because of the massive Texas Medical Center complex, but claims the support facilities are insufficient to accommodate their gathering.

The city also is contemplating an expansion to the George R. Brown Convention Center, in order to provide more meeting space. The convention center and the hotel site are only a few blocks south of Enron Field, the new downtown baseball stadium for the Houston Astros.

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