Denver's Terminal Hotels, Mall Get OK

Momentum is building to add 700 hotel rooms at Denver International Airport, including the revival of the much-delayed 500-room terminal hotel.

The other 200 or so rooms would be located in the Landings at DIA, a retail development planned for a 17-acre parcel of airport property north of Peña Boulevard and southeast of the airport's Conoco gas station.

Marcus Phillips, a principal with developer Redwood Real Estate Partners LLC, said he expects to sign a lease with the city for the land by early March. He hopes to break ground on the mixed-use development by mid- summer.

The roughly 3,000 existing airport-area hotel rooms - including 1,426 rooms on Tower Road - posted the metro area's highest average occupancy rates last year, at 73.3 percent, compared with an overall average of 66.4 percent, according to Robert Benton, author of the monthly Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.

"The occupancy levels at the airport are consistently high, which indicates the need for more inventory out there," said Ilene Kamsler, head of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association.

Phillips said Redwood Real Estate has issued a request for proposals for a "high-quality, limited-service" hotel at the Landings, and several groups have expressed interest.

Buzz also continues to grow about plans for a hotel attached to the southeast corner of the airport terminal.

In early 2003, the city scrapped plans to sell bonds to finance a $125 million Westin Hotel at DIA, citing the downturn in the economy and the financial turmoil at United Airlines.

Airport representatives declined to comment on the progress of the hotel, except to say that a request for proposals "is being drafted and should be issued soon."

"From an economic-development perspective, this is terrific news for DIA," said Mary Rose Loney, president and chief executive of the DIA Partnership, which advocates for the airport and the region that surrounds it.

A full-service terminal hotel with meeting space is a major amenity that is missing at DIA - and one that most other major U.S. airports offer, several hotel- industry insiders said.

"There are a lot of advantages to having a full-service airport hotel; it's something this market needs," Benton said. "A lot of businesspeople will pay a premium to stay right there."

One hotel possibility for the Landings is Aloft, the new, less-expensive urban brand from Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which also owns Westin.

Denver's first Aloft property is slated to open in Broomfield's Arista development next year.

Starwood, which is developing Aloft hotels at airports in Philadelphia and San Francisco, said it is considering several other Denver-area sites but declined to comment on a DIA location.

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