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ATLANTA-Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group plans to open its next US location here in 2011 as part of a 53-story mixed-use project in the Midtown district. While some observers question the wisdom of launching a project in such a lousy economy, industry experts believe the timing will be far more favorable when the hotel opens.

“These are the types of projects that jump real estate cycles,” Patrick Ford, president of Portsmouth, NH-based Lodging Econometrics, tells GlobeSt.com about Mandarin’s Atlanta hotel. “This one is years in the making. It’s going to open in an entirely different environment.”

Atlanta-based Tivoli Properties Inc. announced long-rumored plans Thursday to build a $285-million luxury hotel and condo tower on just under an acre at 1138 Peachtree St., along the so-called Midtown Mile in the city’s arts district. Project plans call for 198 guest rooms that will cost $350 per night, plus 71 residential condominium units priced from $2 million to $15 million.

Although Tivoli has yet to secure all of its financing for the project, a tall order during the current credit crisis, Ford observes that there are several other steps in the process, such as zoning and more city approvals. “They have to get a lot of ducks in order,” he says, adding that construction on the project, even if it starts next year, will take roughly 30 months to finish.

Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental has 40 hotels with more than 10,000 rooms worldwide, expanding in recent years to major US cities such as New York, Boston and Miami. The internationally recognized brand is on par with other major luxury hotel chains including the Ritz-Carlton, Waldorf-Astoria and Four Seasons, and will join other upscale flags in Atlanta like InterContinental, W and Loews.

Despite projections that the nation’s hotel industry faces a sharp downturn in the coming year, Mandarin Oriental officials believe Atlanta is a strong enough market to support the project by the time it opens. Lodging Econometrics’ third-quarter report on the Atlanta hotel market shows 129 projects totaling 16,516 rooms in its pipeline, with 32 under construction, 56 scheduled to start in the coming year and 41 in the early planning stages. Ford says the local pipeline includes six small luxury hotels, with two unlocking next year and the other four not opening until 2011.

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