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LOS ANGELES-Development and investment firm Associated Ventures LLC has launched expansions on two fronts in the hotel market, unveiling a new flag called the “Hotel Highland” collection of upscale urban boutique properties and planning an expansion of its presence in the limited-service, extended stay arena in secondary and tertiary US markets. The Los Angeles-based company’s first entry in the Hotel Highland collection will be the pending rebranding of a 120-room Phoenix Inn Suites hotel in the Fortune 500 Biltmore corridor area of Phoenix. Its target in the limited-service extended-stay arena is to find approximately 15 conversion or new construction projects in secondary and tertiary US markets this year.

The Phoenix property will be renamed the Hotel Highland at Biltmore and is expected to open in September. Associated plans to build an 80-unit condominium tower adjacent to the hotel when market conditions stabilize.

The company describes the Hotel Highland flag as a “limited-service, urban boutique brand designed for business and leisure travelers seeking affordable, stylish accommodations in an urban environment.” It is in negotiations to purchase a second property in Chicago and a third in Tuscon, AZ for the Hotel Highland collection.

Melanie Pennell-Mayer, managing member of Associated Ventures, tells GlobeSt.com that the Hotel Highland collection in most cases will offer limited food service, in all cases with a full service bar/lounge and in some situations will include a full-service restaurant. The Hotel Highland is a separate platform from the 15 limited-service conversions, which will be three-star hotels.

Pennell-Mayer says that the Hotel Highland collection was born out of a growing demand in urban markets for “product with unique amenities that offer an affordable ‘cool’ factor.” The new brand will offer “higher living, higher style, and higher-tech than presently available in a given market.”

According to Michael D. Mayer, also an Associated managing member, the typical candidate to become a Hotel Highland is “a uniquely located existing mainstream branded hotel in the stage of its life cycle where a costly product improvement plan is required.” Mayer explains that Associated believes that the cost of the product improvement renovations under the brand “would not generate the income that could be achieved by spending the same amount on repositioning the hotel to an upscale boutique Hotel Highland.”

Pennell-Mayer says that the Hotel Highland at Biltmore will not have a full-service restaurant, but instead will feature a barista and “other grab-and-go deli items available 24/7.” It will feature a Greatroom area as a communal lounge with a full-service bar, along with high-tech offerings including wireless Internet access, oversized plasma televisions and more. The third floor will be reserved as a concierge floor available to guests of that floor for a premium, accessible only by private key.

In its expansion in the extended-stay, limited-service arena, Associated has identified several factors that are driving the expansion, Pennell-Mayer says. “First, while global economic growth continues to fuel the need for travel to secondary and tertiary markets, the economic slowdown in the US drives corporations both large and small to reevaluate their travel budgets in search of value-driven accommodations,” she says.

Second, because land and development costs are lower in these secondary and tertiary markets, Associated company sees an opportunity to develop and operate these hotels profitably. The company has already identified sites in Biloxi, MS, Tucson, AZ and Southern California that are being evaluated for development.

Associated Ventures, successor to Site Realty Inc., is a national real estate development and investment firm that has been responsible for more than 35 projects exceeding $1 billion in value, with special emphasis on the hospitality and condominium sectors. The company acquires and invests in properties in domestic and foreign markets.

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