'Bama-Based PCH Makes Big Lodging Push

Two hotel properties are being upgraded in Mobile and other brand-new hotels are opening elsewhere in Alabama as part of a $335 million effort by local hotelier PCH Hotels and Resorts.

The company also plans to build a new hotel in Montgomery.

Mobile's Battle House Hotel, which was closed for 31 years, has been gutted and is being revamped to look just as it appeared when it opened in 1852. It will open next year.

Formerly nicknamed Alabama's "living room," the Battle House Hotel was the social hub of the state and home to Mardi Gras balls. After its renovation, each of the 238 rooms will be doubled in size and the meeting space will be expanded to 40,000 square feet.

Attached to the hotel is an office and retail structure called the RSA Battle House Tower. At 745 feet, it will be the tallest building in Alabama.

Next door, the Riverview Plaza will renovate its guestrooms floor by floor, staying opened during the renovations. The Riverview Plaza will reopen under the Renaissance label, connected to Mobile's convention center by a skywalk.

"Mobile will be unique, with a fantastic convention center with a high-end hotel and a medium-priced hotel in the same complex," PCH's CEO David Bronner said. "That's very unusual outside the Orlando area in the Deep South."

Once all of the new construction in Mobileis completed in 2006, attention will turn to Montgomery, where PCH Hotels and Resorts is building a brand-new property. The hotel will feature a new performing arts center and will be attached to the town's civic center.

The project doesn't have a completion date, but the company broke ground last month.

Elsewhere in Alabama, the Marriott Shoals in Florence and the Renaissance Ross Bridge in a Birmingham suburb both opened this year.

It was an easy decision to construct the Marriott Shoals Hotel. For many years, Florence had a conference center but no place for attendees at events there to sleep.

The Marriott Shoals sits on the widest part of the Tennessee River, with all of its 207 rooms and suites facing the water. It is connected to the conference center, and collectively, the complex offers more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.

Attached to the hotel is a decorative tower, fashioned after Seattle's Space Needle, with a slow spinning restaurant atop the edifice, aptly named 360.

The 259-room Renaissance Ross Bridge, meanwhile, is modeled after Bronner's favorite hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs in Canada.

The facility sits on what it says is the third longest golf course in the world —almost 8,200 yards from the back tees — and it's a golfing favorite.

On the meetings side, the Renaissance offers 20,000 square feet of space, with the ballroom holding just over 1,500 people reception style.