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ATLANTA-W Hotels Worldwide has added two more locations in the Buckhead and Downtown submarkets, bringing the city’s total to four. The 291-key W Atlanta-Buckhead opened in December, while the W Atlanta Downtown Hotel & Residences, featuring 237 rooms and 74 residences, formally opens this week. Despite entering the market during a challenging time for not only hotels but all commercial real estate, the brand and the hotels’ owners are confident in the region’s long-term outlook.

The W Atlanta-Buckhead, located at 3377 Peachtree Road NE, is owned and developed by Noble Investment Group, which did not return messages seeking comment. Carlos Becil, W Hotels vice president of brand management, says the Buckhead location was chosen because it is “one of the country’s most affluent neighborhoods, set amidst specialty shopping, the hottest nightlife, landmark corporations and upscale living. A true Southern shopping destination, Buckhead shares W’s passion for modern luxury, innovative style and contemporary cool design,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

The hotel itself was designed in a “comfortable, stylish urban environment infused with the historical references that define the rich style and tradition of Buckhead,” says designer Thom Filicia, who appeared in NBC/Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” The W Atlanta-Buckhead features the American debut of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Market restaurant, a rooftop bar and lounge, fully equipped techno-gym, a heated outdoor infinity-edge pool overlooking Peachtree Road, wireless Internet, a business center and 8,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The W Atlanta Downtown Hotel & Residences, located at 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., is the brand’s fourth location in Atlanta. The structure was built and developed as part of locally based Barry Real Estate Cos.’ $2-billion Allen Plaza mixed-use project in the city’s financial district. At full buildout, the nine-block development is set to include as much as 2.5 million square feet of offices, 2,000 residences, 250,000 square feet of retail and 750 hotel rooms, Harvey Rudy, senior director of development with Barry, tells GlobeSt.com.

The W Hotel itself features 10,000 square feet of meeting space that is connected to 55 Allen, a 350,000-square-foot, class A office building within the development. Of the 74 residences that sit atop the hotel, ranging in prices from the $400,000s to over $3 million, 10 are sold, says Rudy.

The two hotels enter the Atlanta market just as year-end 2008 data shows an 11.3% drop in year-over-year occupancy to 43.7% as of the end of 2008, according to a report by Smith Travel Research. Average daily rates in the region dropped 9.5% over the past year to $79.85.

The overall US hotel market ended the year at a 60.4% occupancy rate, 4.2% lower than last year. The country had an average daily rate of $106.55, which was 2.4% higher than one year ago, STR reports. Luxury hotels specifically suffered most during the last month of 2008, the report says, with a year-over-year occupancy rate dropping 11.5% to 52.1% and ADR falling 7.3% to $294.40.

“After a reasonably good start to 2008, the industry fell into an extremely negative pattern during the last four months of the year,” Mark Lomanno, STR president, stated in a report. “The data during the last quarter of 2008 experienced a dramatic decrease, and that led to the disappointing year-end numbers.”

Despite the negative numbers, the overall Atlanta market is projecting the opening of 28 hotels, including 3,223 rooms in 2009, almost double the number in 2008 which totaled 1,571 rooms in 16 hotels, according to newly published data by Lodging Econometrics. In terms of the US as a whole, “new openings are expected to reach a cyclical high in the next two years, as projects that were able to secure financing before lending closed down come online,” the report states. The firm’s research shows that 1,431 hotels/165,927 rooms will come online in 2009 and 1,370 hotels/160,885 rooms in 2010, a 3.4% and 3.2% gross growth rate, respectively.

“By offering unique experiences at our properties like signature restaurants, destination bars, W Living Rooms, and bliss spas, we are well positioned to weather the current economic crisis,” Becil tells GlobeSt.com when asked how the brand is expected to fair in the downturn. “We are utilizing this time to build, open and refurbish W hotels in anticipation of the recovery and beyond. We take the long view, and what is happening today should be a distant memory over the life cycle of any W property.”

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