The News: Massive Hotel Project Moves Ahead

Chicago’s Shangri-La Hotel has joined the list of high-profile hotel casualties of the credit crunch. Yet the JW Marriott Indianapolis four-hotel complex continues to rise, with full financing in place.Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts had planned 200 rooms in the long-stalled Waterview Tower mixed-use project overlooking the Chicago River but announced earlier this month that it was suspending the hotel project and did not reveal when, or even if, work might start up again.Less than 200 miles away, however, a $450 million, four-hotel project is proceeding on schedule. The JW Marriott complex in Downtown Indianapolis began construction in May 2008 and will be completed by February 2011, according to developer White Lodging Services Inc.The complex will feature the JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown. Its 1,005 rooms will form the largest JW Marriott count in the country. The hotel will connect to the Indiana Convention Center by skywalk and will offer 104,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Three other Marriott hotels will join the complex: a 297-key Courtyard by Marriott, a 168-room Fairfield Inn & Suites and a 156-key SpringHill Suites. All are slated to open next March. “It’s full-steam ahead,” said JW Marriott Indianapolis director of sales and marketing Cory Chambers.The hotels and convention center contribute to each other’s growth. The convention center is undergoing a $275 million expansion. Upon completion, it and the multi-purpose Lucas Oil Stadium will feature 3.4 million square feet of exhibition space, the 16th largest space in the United States. The Marriott Indianapolis complex proved key to the city’s winning bid to host the 2012 Super Bowl.The White family, of White Lodging, is financing the major portion, Chambers said. Dean White will own the JW Marriott and the Fairfield Inn. White Lodging will own the Courtyard by Marriott and SpringHill Suites in combination with REI Investments Inc. Bonds issued by the city of Indianapolis in 2008 will cover the remaining $48.5 million. “It’s a meeting of the minds,” Chambers said. “Dean White wanted to give back to the city that has given so much to him.”The giant hotel complex will also have timing on its side, according to Chambers. “This is a high-risk, high-reward sector. We think these hotels will open when we’ll see an upswing in the cycle.”