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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ-Memphis-based Homewood Suites by Hilton has opened its first location here at 125 Rt. 17 S. Hotel owner East Rutherford Hotel LLC and Pennsylvania-based manager HMB Management Inc. brought on Sweetwater Construction in Cranbury to serve as general contractor for the 100,000-square-foot project. River Vale-based Michels & Waldron Associates was tapped as the architect for the project.

Launched in 1989, the Homewood Suites by Hilton brand currently has more than 250 hotels and approximately 140 in the development pipeline, an impressive number given Lodging Econometrics data that shows the first quarterly decline in five years between–Q2 and Q3 2008–in the total US construction pipeline.

According to New York-based Carlton Advisory Services Inc. president John Bralower, the decline is due in large part to the amount of leverage a developer can now obtain. “It’s no longer 90% first mortgage financing,” he says. “The construction deals that are getting done now probably look more like 50% to 60%, possibly with some recourse, which there never used to be.”

One of the reasons Homewood is still seeing deals is that focused service is easier to get financing for, says Rebecca Wyatt Homewood’s senior vice president of brand marketing. “Many of our owners are long time hotel people who have been doing this for a while and are really used to fluctuations in the economy and tend to have relationships with local banks.”

For its part, Sweetwater has seen virtually zero decline in New Jersey hotel construction, according to company founder and president Ron Witt, Sr., who has now completed 16 hotel projects, including a Homewood Suites in Plainsboro.

Situated in the heart of the New Jersey Meadowlands, the hotel here–which will eventually employ 40 people–offers studio and one- and two-bedroom suites, as well as six suites equipped with in-room Jacuzzis and five handicapped-accessible suites. Amenities include an executive business center, indoor swimming pool, sports court, fitness center and more than 4,000 square feet of meeting space.

Additional reporting for this article was done by Ian Ritter and Maria Wood

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