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AUSTIN-White Lodging Services Corp., with a long-term land lease in hand, will break ground in summer 2007 on the city’s largest hotel development. The $185-million undertaking will be a 1,000-room, Marriott-flagged private project just two blocks from the convention center.

There are several hurdles to clear before ground breaks on the proposed 650-room, full-service Marriott convention center hotel, 200-room upscale boutique Renaissance Hotel and 150-room Springhill Suites by Marriott. Not only does the Merrillville, IN-based developer have to make its way through the city’s tough building process, but it also is dealing with a site that needs scraped of an Austin landmark, Las Manitas restaurant.

“We are in discussions now as how best to come to a solution about their location,” Judy Bronowski, White Lodging’s vice president of business development, tells GlobeSt.com. As for the other tenants in the block of retail and office space, she says that the local property owner, Finley Co., is addressing the issues.

White Lodging recently signed a ground lease for practically a full block of Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd streets. HOK’s Austin office did the preliminary design of the 26-story hotel. Bronowski says other contracts have yet to be awarded. The 26-story hotel project is slated for a summer 2009 delivery. The design includes 50,000 sf of meeting space, another 18 meeting rooms, 38,500 sf in two ballrooms, street-level retail along 2nd Street, up to five food and beverage sites and a 500-space underground parking garage.

Though it’s a private development, the scope clearly benefits the city. “We believe that adding 1,000 upscale hotel rooms to the Downtown market will help attract additional convention business to Austin, enabling the city to compete more effectively with other convention destinations,” says Deno Yiankes, White Lodging’s president and COO of development and asset management.

The hotelier, with its Western Division based in Austin, is the largest owner and operator in the region. It owns 16 hotels with 1,500 rooms in the city and is under construction on three more properties totaling 600 rooms–making it the largest hotel owner and operator in the state capital. The convention center project will result in 600 full-time jobs, doubling the firm’s head count in the region. The development is projected to generate more than $2 million annually in property taxes and exceed $4 million in bed tax revenue. White also operates Marriott-flagged convention center hotels in Louisville, Ky and Indianapolis.

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