Developers are spending millions of dollars on new or upgraded hotel properties that have recently been completed in downtown Minneapolis.
Largest project is the $60-million-plus Le Meridien luxury hotel -- labeled the first "Art+Tech" hotel in the United States. It is one of the cornerstones of Minneapolis' $150-million Block E downtown entertainment complex.
A second project is the extensive renovation of one of the region's banner properties -- the landmark Radisson Plaza Hotel that is the flagship of the Radisson brand's global hospitality operations. The Radisson makeover cost some $11.5 million.
The Le Meridien is part of the world's luxury chain of the same name. The 255-room property integrates art and technology, from backlit regionally themed paintings and photos set into the paneling to edge-lit, handcrafted etched glass panels in headboards that depict Minnesota landscapes.
Guestrooms include wall-mounted, 42-inch plasma-screen TVs, a wireless digital keyboard that provides Internet access, as well as in-room entertainment and other amenities. The latter include bathrooms equipped with "body-jet" showers and some with whirlpools.
With room rates positioned between $199 and $270 a night, its developers are pinning their hopes on business from the affluent leisure and corporate traveler.
The downtown Radisson has long been known as one of Minnesota's top full-service properties. It was acquired by Carlson Companies' founder Curt Carlson in 1962 and was razed in the 1980s and rebuilt as the Radisson Plaza Hotel.
At that time it was developed as part of the $108-million Plaza VII mixed-use hotel and retail downtown development with a 325,000-square-foot office tower, designed to meet the city's demand for more meeting space, larger contemporary guest rooms and more expansive parking facilities.
The property is company owned and managed and serves as the showcase lodging facility for the Radisson chain, which now has its brand on more than 440 hotels in 61 countries.
The renovation has touched the entire facility. The hotel's lobby and 360 guest rooms and suites have been transformed from a traditional business decor to a 21st century design with a customized boutique feel with several ultra-comfortable design elements, noted a Radisson spokeswoman. Additional meeting space also has been created.
In addition to the renovation, a new contemporary restaurant concept has been added, called the FireLake, Grill House &; Cocktail Bar. It features classic Midwestern cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.
Individual guest rooms include a new Radisson offering -- the "Pacific Coast Suite," featuring a natural bedding system that includes a seven-layer, hypo-allergenic down feather bed. Each room also features a new executive-style work desk with power outlets for computer hook-up and other amenities.
The Radisson Hotels and Resorts segment is a division of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, which encompasses more than 1,660 hotel, resort, restaurant and cruise ship operations in 82 counties. It is one of the largest privately-held businesses in the world.
Bloomington-based Holiday Inn-Airport No. 2 will undergo a massive renovation and become the Crown Plaza Airport West by 2004.
The new look will cost several million dollars, reported Minneapolis Business Journal. In addition to room upgrades, the work will include adding Rheinzink, a German titanium zinc siding, to the outside of the hotel.
Plans also call for cutting-edge silver-blue windows, two 42-inch flat-screen plasma televisions behind the front desk, slate countertops throughout the hotel and projector-produced signs advertising the 258-room hotel's restaurant and meeting space.
Med cruise: Free verandah upgrades
While our October 2004 Mediterranean cruise is yet to be officially placed on the market, Holland America Line has come up with an early-booking promotion that is the best we have seen in the 12 Post-Bulletin-sponsored cruises that we have hosted.
The cruise will be aboard a new ship, the ms Westerdam, that will be launched next spring. Some 60 percent of its cabins are verandahs and to spur interest in the ship's inaugural season HAL is offering free upgrades from some lower-priced outside cabins to verandahs. This could result in as much as a six-category upgrade from an outside cabin to a verandah. HAL says the promotion will end Oct. 31, or based on the availability of a verandah stateroom.
Since we gave minimal notice of the cruise a few weeks back, 16 persons have signed on. The cruise begins in Rome and ends in Venice with such destinations as Monte Carlo, Barcelona, the Turkish island of Kusadasi, Athens and Croatia in between.
Details are available from AAA Travel, which is handling sales. The 12-day cruise begins Oct. 7 but a stay in Rome is programmed ahead of it.
Bob Retzlaff is travel editor of the Post-Bulletin. He can be reached by phone (507-285-7704) or e-mail (email@example.com).