Hope for the Normandie HotelSeptember 13, 2012 | Volume: 40 | No: 36
By : ALEX DÍAZ/Caribbean
Government expects to grant go-ahead to NYC investor group by year’s end; part of growing room count around Convention District
Esperanza para el Hotel Normandie
Por : ALEX DÍAZ/Caribbean Business
13 de septiember de 2012 | Volume: 40 | No: 36
El Gobierno espera otorgar el visto bueno al grupo de inversionistas de Nueva York a finales de año; parte del recuento cada vez mayor de habitaciones en torno al Centro de Convenciones.
The on-again, off-again sale and opening of the 290-room Normandie Hotel is on, again, say officials of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., who expect to close the deal by the year's end for an undisclosed amount.
"We've already had several meetings with an investor group from New York to iron out the particulars, and it looks like we'll be ready to go before the end of the year," Tourism Co. Planning & Development Director José Juan Terrasa told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.
The particulars include talks with the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture on a possible expansion of the hotel's parking structure, as well as details of the remodeling work to be done. "It's all fairly routine at this stage, certainly nothing that can derail the deal," he added.
The property fell in government hands two years ago when the previous owner, real-estate investment trust Caribbean Property Group (CPG), shut down the hotel and bailed out to cut its losses.
Sources say that the government, which has since been trying to reopen it, turned to a local group led by hotelier Gonzalo Gracia to look for the deep-pocket investors who could step in and invest the funds necessary to return the Normandie to its previous splendor. Gracia couldn't be reached for comment.
The hotel, built in 1942 as an art-deco structure in the shape of French ocean liner SS Normandie, is a national historic site, which stood in the way of certain improvements CPG wanted to make when it owned the hotel, but Terrasa does not anticipate any such obstacles this time around.
"We like what they have in mind," he said of the current investor group's proposal.
The hotel sits smack-dab in the heart of Puerto Rico's main tourist and convention zone, across from the Caribe Hilton Hotel and walking distance from the Convention Center District. Its proximity and 290 rooms are considered vital to help the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau attract bigger conventions.
So far, the lack of sufficient convention business has kept developers from building additional hotels in the district's premises. Only a 500-room Sheraton has been built, owned by local hotel and residential development firm Interlink, which has put a second hotel with 200 rooms on hold pending greater convention bookings by the bureau.
The government is also awaiting word from a Costa Rican developer for the construction go-ahead on a 200-room Courtyard Marriott.
Executives at Marriott's stateside headquarters recently told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS they fully expect the hotel to materialize in the coming months, an upbeat sentiment echoed by Terrasa. "Yes, we hear the developer is starting to move in the right direction," he said.
So is Hyatt Corp., which plans to open a 126-room Hyatt House in the district. "They want the hotel to be next to one of the Convention District stations of the San Juan municipal light-rail system," he added.
The Normandie is also considered a strategic fit to boost the prospects of the new Bahía Urbana waterfront project along the San Antonio Channel across from Isla Grande Airport.
One of the Bahía Urbana parcels presently under construction is the zone's entry park in Puerta de Tierra, also walking distance from the hotel.
El está-otra vez, no está-otra vez a la venta y apertura el hotel Normandie de 290 habitaciones, se encuentra una vez más a la venta, dicen los funcionarios de la Compañía de Turismo de Puerto Rico, que esperan cerrar el acuerdo antes de fin de año por un monto no revelado.