Maria Wood is senior editor of Real Estate Forum.

PHOENIX-Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. has officially entered the extended-stay segment with the launch of its newest brand, “Element.”

Under development for more than a year, the White Plains-based company’s new brand takes it cue from Westin, another Starwood holding, said Sue A. Brush, senior vice president of Westin, an upscale full-service brand. Element hotels will include Westin’s “heavenly bed” in addition to a gourmet breakfast pantry.

The product is targeted for the upper end of the extended-stay market where Residence Inns and Homewood Suites currently operate, according to James J. Woods, vice president, acquisitions and development of Starwood’s real estate group. Even before the extended-stay branch was officially launched, Woods said there were 13 applications to build such properties.

The first Element will be a company-built hotel in Lexington, MA, which is set to open in early 2008. To devise a prototype for the new offering, Starwood worked with an advisory board of developers experienced in extended-stay hotels. The company wanted the most “efficient building as possible” in terms of room size and mix, Woods said. The model envisions a hotel of 123 rooms with 640 sf per key versus an industry average of 700 sf per room. It can be built on 2.5-acre site, but the design is flexible enough to fit into urban locations, Woods said.

Starwood also partnered with leading residential architect, Costas Kondylis, in designing the new product. Construction costs will vary by market, but Wood said it will be line with the industry standard of $110,000 to $130,000 per key to develop an extended-stay hotel.

The brand will target consultants, people on training programs and corporate relocations. On weekends, the product could be used by wedding parties, reunions and sporting teams, said Brush.

Brush said about a million current Starwood customers indicated that they would stay at an extended-stay hotel by the company. Last year, the company launched an upper-end select-service brand “Aloft.”

Starwood announced the Element rollout yesterday at the Lodging Conference 2006 being held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa at 2400 E. Missouri Ave. in Phoenix. The conference wraps up tomorrow.

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