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5-star hotel sought for landmark,
Bank of America Plaza owner in negotiations

Atlanta Journal-Constitution - September 19, 2008 - by Kevin Duffy Staff Writer


The owner of Bank of America Plaza is negotiating to bring a 315-room, "five-star" hotel to the landmark Midtown skyscraper.

The hotel would go in the first 16 floors and require Bank of America to move its offices in the building, said David Cobb, president and chief executive officer of BentleyForbes, the Los Angeles-based owner.

The 55-story Bank of America building, located at Peachtree Street and North Avenue, is the city's tallest. Cobb said BentleyForbes is trying to work out issues with tenants in the building and interviewing architects before announcing the hotel's name. The law firm Troutman Sanders occupies the top 12 floors.

"We're retooling the Bank of America Plaza to free up space for a luxury hotel," said Cobb, a former Georgia resident. The Mobil Travel Guide, which rates lodgings by stars, says a five-star hotel is "an exceptionally distinctive luxury environment offering expanded amenities and consistently superlative services."

Only the Four Seasons Hotel on 14th Street in Midtown earns Mobil's five stars.

Paul Breslin, managing partner of Panther Hospitality and a hotel management teacher at Georgia State University, said the new Mansion on Peachtree and the partially built St. Regis, both in Buckhead, might eventually join the five-star roster.

The city's image will soar if it can boast several five-star hotels, Breslin said. "It sends a strong message to the community that Atlanta is now a place for people seeking luxury," he said. AAA uses a diamond rating and lists the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta in downtown and the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead as five-diamond hotels.

J.W. "Bill" Marriott, chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, said in May his company is exploring opening a third Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. "A Ritz-Carlton in Midtown is something that we are looking at," he said. Other luxury brands known to be interested in Atlanta are Mandarin Oriental and the Waldorf Astoria. A European hotelier is another possibility, Breslin said.

Bank of America Plaza is at the border of downtown and Midtown, and anchors the southern end of the Midtown Mile, a 14-block stretch of Peachtree Street targeted for 1 million square feet of retail development.

A new luxury hotel, along with a high-end restaurant and perhaps shops, would be a boon for the Midtown Mile effort, said Susan Mendheim, president and chief executive officer of the Midtown Alliance. "Hotels are really good for us because they make the community vibrant -- 24/7," Mendheim said.

She said Midtown is underserved with about 3,300 rooms. Several hundred more rooms are under construction at the Hotel Palomar on West Peachtree Street and at the Loews, part of the 12th & Midtown project. Another 2,000 rooms are planned or permitted, Mendheim said.

BentleyForbes is a privately held commercial real estate company that also owns Prudential Plaza in Chicago and the office and retail portions of the Watergate complex in Washington. The Atlanta building is its second-largest property at 1.29 million square feet. BentleyForbes bought Bank of America Plaza in 2006, paying $436 million.