BOSTON-In yet another setback to the convention center being built on the waterfront in South Boston, the development of the 1,120-room convention center hotel is being pushed back as its developers, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, gets another year to find financing for the $264-million project.

Starwood was supposed to have the deal closed by Feb. 1, 2002 but has had difficulty financing the project even before the Sept. 11 attacks. Since then, prospects have dimmed even further. “We saw it was happening in the capital markets before Sept. 11,” Andy Antrobus, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, tells “But post-September 11 it was clear that the previous arrangements were based on business conditions that don’t exist any longer.” Antrobus emphasizes that Starwood is not at fault in this situation. “It would have been difficult for anyone to finance a hotel in the current climate,” he says.

The company now has until Feb. 1, 2003 to close the deal, meaning that the hotel will not open until 2005–a year after the convention center is scheduled to open. The hotel is considered crucial to the success of the center.

As part of the deal, the MCCA is using the $15 million currently in escrow that Starwood gave as a deposit to continue the design and permitting processes for the hotel. Antrobus notes that the MCCA’s arrangement with Starwood is exclusive until Feb. 1, 2003 and then “if another hotel comes along, we can give them a fully permitted, designed hotel. The process will be a lot swifter then.”

Starwood will also provide MCCA with monthly reports on the status of its efforts to procure financing and will provide the MCCA with blocks of rooms in its Sheraton Back Bay and Park Plaza Hotel here once the convention center opens. “Its not an ideal arrangement but it is a mutually beneficial arrangement, nonetheless,” says Antrobus, who adds that ultimately the hotel’s delayed opening will not severely impact the convention center.

“Everyone needs to remember that there’s always been a 10-year ramp-up period that is needed [for the center] and the leanest years are in the beginning,” he points out. “Once word gets out that the convention center is operational and functional, the convention center hotel will be an added bonus.”

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