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PRINCETON, NJ-Highland Hospitality has signed a definitive agreement to buy the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village hotel within Princeton Forrestal Center here. The sale price of $53.5 million for the 294-room hostelry factors out to a solid $182,000 per room. The seller was the White Plains-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

“This acquisition is our first Westin and our second Starwood product for our portfolio,” says James L. Francis, president and CEO of Highland Hospitality, a McLean, VA-based hotel REIT. “This asset is well-positioned in a market that is poised for solid future growth, and it meets our stated acquisition objectives.”

Highland expects to close on the acquisition within the next 30 days, according to Francis. The REIT has also picked Crestline Hotels & Resorts Inc., also of McLean, VA, to manage the property under a Westin license agreement.

Starwood bought what was then known as the Marriott Forrestal Village Hotel in 1996 and left it under Marriott management until the summer of 2002. At that time, the company launched a general upgrade of the property and re-flagged it under the Westin brand.

The transaction is also part of a larger sell-off by Starwood, which has accounted for the movement of more than $1.1 billion in hotel assets since early 2003. After selling the Westin O’Hare in Chicago last month, company officials issued a prepared statement that “the proceeds from this hotel combined with other recent asset sales are part of the $500 million the company targeted to sell by the end of 2005…the proceeds will be used for share repurchase and for general corporate purposes.” And as reported by GlobeSt.com earlier this week, Starwood is looking to sell between $2 billion and $4 billion of assets in the next year.

For Highland Hospitality, the deal boosts the REIT’s portfolio to 21 properties totaling 6,270 rooms in 11 states and Mexico. The hotel sale also comes at a time of transition for the larger, 720,000-sf mixed-use Princeton Forrestal Village. The Gale Co. of Florham Park bought the office and retail components of the property in 2003 and launched a makeover of the retail portion, handing that task to Levin Management of North Plainfield.

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