Interstate venture plans 10 aloft hotels

Interstate Hotels & Resorts has announced that it has formed a joint venture with The John Buck Company (TJBC) to build as many as five to 10 aloft hotels over the next several years. Carrying the DNA of W Hotels, aloft is the new, premium, select-service hotel brand introduced by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.  TJBC will be responsible for site selection, construction and development management, and Interstate will operate the hotels.  Both companies also will be equity participants in the hotels. 
The joint venture has signed long-term franchise agreements for the first two properties.  It has acquired a site in California and expects to close on the acquisition of a site in suburban Nashville this spring.  The joint venture expects to commence construction on both properties in 2007:
? Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.—The 136-room aloft Rancho Cucamonga, near Ontario, Calif., will be part of a $60 million master-planned, mixed-use development currently under construction near Ontario Airport, called HavenPark.  When completed, HavenPark will feature 150,000 square feet of Class A office space, 22,000 square feet of retail space, a free-standing, full-service restaurant and the aloft hotel.  Construction of the hotel is expected to begin in the 2007 first quarter, with an opening scheduled for early 2008.
? Cool Springs, Tenn.—A suburb in the southern section of Nashville, the area is a fast-growing market that includes office, retail, high- and upper-income residential, hotels and restaurants.  Cool Springs was selected as the site of the new North American headquarters for Nissan, which will add 450,000 square feet to the existing 2.7 million square feet of office space there.  The area also offers 4.3 million square feet of retail space, including the 1.1 million square-foot Cool Springs Galleria Mall, located approximately three blocks from the site of the new 143-room aloft Cool Springs.  The hotel will be adjacent to D-1 sports training, an amateur and professional sport training facility.  Construction is expected to begin in late spring 2007, with an opening scheduled for late spring 2008.
“We have identified, and are in negotiations on, a number of other attractive sites,” said Paul Novak, TJBC’s managing director, hospitality division, who will oversee development of the two hotels and all subsequent hotels, including sourcing appropriate levels of equity and debt financing.  “With the development of aloft hotels, our team will be able to better meet the growing demands of travelers with a much anticipated, moderately-priced offering.  The aloft brand is carefully targeted to a new generation of guests who are technologically savvy economically minded and seek a lodging experience, rather than just a room. aloft has taken the success of the W Hotels experience and adapted it to a new segment and new generation of travelers.”
“This is an excellent growth vehicle for us,” said Interstate’s chief executive officer, Thomas F. Hewitt.  “While managing hotels will remain our core business, we intend to expand our ownership of hotels as a growth strategy, primarily through joint ventures like these.  TJBC is a well-regarded developer with some 25 years experience in office, residential and hotel development.  We have extensive experience operating more than 30 hotel brands and believe aloft will be well received in the marketplace.”
According to preliminary plans, the joint venture will build the standard 136-room aloft hotel prototype, but may increase the size to as many as 300 rooms in major urban locations. 
“We have a rich hotel development history and seek to join with operators who have a proven track record, like Interstate,” said John A. Buck, TJBC chairman and chief executive officer.  “We believe this joint venture creates a strong team to develop an outstanding new product.”
“Our increased focus on joint venture development enables us to expand our strategy of further diversifying our earnings base,” said Leslie Ng, Interstate’s chief investment officer.  “We expect to benefit from the management fees and from the ownership and appreciation of the real estate.”
As a vision of W Hotels, a hallmark of the aloft concept is the urban-inspired, loft-style guest lofts.  The bright, airy environments feature generous nine-foot ceilings and oversized windows, as well as a signature, ultra-comfortable bed. A combination high-tech office and entertainment center, each guest loft features plug & play, aloft’s signature one-stop connectivity solution for multiple electronic gadgets such as Blackberries, cellphones, MP3 players and laptops - all linked to a large flat panel television for optimal sound and viewing.  Large stylish bathrooms offer oversized walk-in showers and amenities created by bliss spa®.  With closets located in the bed furniture system, the overall room design gives a feeling of spaciousness in a highly efficient design.