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QUEENSLAND, MD-The owner of the Wye River Conference Center, where Israeli and Palestinian officials negotiated a peace accord in 1998, wants a business partner to take a piece of its next deal. The nonprofit Aspen Institute wants to expand and renovate the 86-room conference center on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and is looking for an equity finance partner to bring cash or management ability to the facility. The deal could be structured as a joint venture or as a long-term leasehold for a partner willing to manage the facility.

The Denver-based group wants to add at least 100 rooms and renovate the facility’s rooms, built in three parts over the last 66 years. As a dedicated conference center with 5,446 sf of meeting space, recognized by the International Association of Conference Centers, the facility lacks new telecommunications technology. Aspen and Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, its adviser, have not named a price for the renovations or an equity investment.

“It depends on somebody’s vision,” says Mark Vollmer, senior vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels. The expansion would give it a higher profile to attract corporate users and let it operate more efficiently, Vollmer says.

Located on 1,138 acres of forest and farmland in Queenstown, MD, 70 miles from Washington, DC, the site was once an estate known as Wye Plantation. William Paca, a signatory on the Declaration of Independence and Maryland’s third governor, maintained his family estate here. Arthur Houghton built Houghton House there in 1934. Wye Woods, the second portion, was built in the ’60s and ’70s. The final section, River House, was built in 1989 as a conference center for Northern Telecom.The site was donated to Aspen Institute in 1979, and is currently managed by Marriott for Aspen.

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