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The Sheraton Brooklyn will open its doors Thursday ushering in a new era of competition in a borough long neglected by the hotel industry.
For nearly 12 years, the Marriott in downtown Brooklyn has been the borough's only full-service hotel, enjoying a near monopoly when it came to booking many of the local political fundraisers, bar mitzvahs, corporate conventions and community receptions.
That reign will end when the Sheraton cuts the ribbon on its new 321-room hotel a few blocks away. The Sheraton Brooklyn, a brand under Starwood Hotels & Resorts, is part of the chain's $5 billion expansion that includes opening 50 hotels world-wide over the next three years. The hotel chain is slated to open a Sheraton in Tribeca in September.
The Brooklyn opening comes as New York City's hotels are recovering from the downturn faster than the rest of the industry. A brutal recession forced many consumers to scrap vacations and corporations to curtail business travel forcing hotel chains to offer bargain basement rates to fill empty rooms.
But New York is seeing growth in both tourism and business travelers. Occupancy levels in New York City hotels rose to 72% in the first quarter, up 11.6 percent from a year ago, according to Smith Travel Research.
Meanwhile, revenue per available room increased 7.6% to $135 while the national average fell 2% to $50.
For years, the conventional wisdom was that Brooklyn wouldn't be able to support a large hotel. After all, most tourists and business travelers prefer to stay in Manhattan near that borough's theaters, restaurants and tourist attractions.
The New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1998 and quickly proved the skeptics wrong by attracting both business travelers and tourists. In 2006, it underwent a major expansion that boosted the number of rooms to 668 from 376.
"Brooklyn has now become a destination," the Mariott's developer, Joshua Muss, said. "In many ways it's [outpaced] Manhattan in terms of edginess...food venues [and] residential alternatives."
Part of Mr. Muss's success stemmed from the Marriott's ability to attract community events. Brooklyn organizations rented out its banquet and meeting space rather than making the trek into Manhattan. The Marriott also became popular with the borough's Orthodox Jewish community because it has a dedicated kosher kitchen.
The Sheraton is gearing up to grab some of the Marriott's market share. It, too, will have a full kosher kitchen as well as 4,300 square feet of meeting space.
"We can accommodate the needs of not only incoming guests, but the local community as well," says Hoyt Harper, senior vice president and global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels and Resorts.
Mr. Muss says he's unfazed by the new kid on the block.
"I believe....Marriott Brooklyn Bridge cannot be competed with and will hold its own for the next several decades," he said. "I don't believe anybody can possibly duplicate the convenience, the amenities, the location [and] the parking."
The Sheraton Brooklyn is owned by the Lam Group, a New York developer that owns numerous hotels mostly in New York, and is being managed by Sheraton.
The hotel chain originally planned to open last year, but the launch was delayed because the economy. "Obviously with the economy, we required a little more time to complete the process," Mr. Harper says.
A number of boutique hotels without convention space have opened in Brooklyn in recent years including the NU Hotel in downtown and Hotel Le Bleu in Park Slope.
Starwood Hotels is slated to open an Aloft hotel, its new brand, in October.
Numerous other hotels have been planned but haven't gotten off the drawing board because of the economy.
There are roughly 20 hotels including bed and breakfasts in Brooklyn, a relatively small amount given the borough is home to 2.5 million residents.Source: wsj.com