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Suburbs see surge in hotel construction

THE BOSTON GLOBE – The rebounding economy has sparked a boom in hotel construction in the suburbs, adding thousands of new rooms that cater to business travelers on weekdays and tourists on weekends.

As they roll out new corporate campuses and mixed-used developments along Interstate 495 and Route 128, developers are increasingly including a hotel or two in the mix.

Plans were recently unveiled for a new 153-room Hilton Garden Inn in Marlborough just off I-495, while in Hopkinton a developer is pushing a proposal for a new residential and commercial complex that will include an upscale hotel featuring a spa and other amenities.

Meanwhile, a new Marriott in Needham has been doing brisk business since opening last summer, said Greg Reibman, president of the Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce, while other new hotels are planned for the University Station project in Westwood and the Northwest Park redevelopment in Burlington.

“Despite the economic uncertainty of the last few years, this region has continually grown in importance as an employment center,” said Paul Matthews, executive director of the 495/MetroWest Partnership.

Most of the new hotels under construction or in the planning phases aren’t freestanding, solo endeavors. Instead, they are being built as part of larger business and residential projects, officials say.

The Hilton Garden Inn in Marlborough is taking shape as part of a larger redevelopment of the old Hewlett-Packard site off I-495 called Forest Park. The project includes Quest Diagnostic’s plans for a 200,000-square-foot research center and 350 apartments to be built by Avalon Bay, said Tim Cummings, executive director of the Marlborough Economic Development Corp.

“We have a lot of corporate business use, particularly Monday through Thursday,” Cummings said. “That is driving a lot of demand.”

In Hopkinton, developers Steven Zieff and Finley Perry are pushing plans for a large, mixed-use project near I-495 that will include a hotel, along with housing units, offices, and shops.

In Littleton, developer Sam Park is moving ahead with plans for a 100-room Hilton Homewood Suites hotel and a Market Basket at the junction of Route 119 and I-495, while another hotel is being proposed in Berlin.

Developers are also eyeing sites along Route 128 for new hotels.

A 128-room Residence Inn by Marriott opened in the New England Business Center just off Route 128 in Needham last August, next to where TripAdvisor is building a new, 282,000-square-foot headquarters.

“They were clearly thinking about what that office market would become,” Reibman said.

The hotel is designed to cater to executives who may need to be in town for a few days, with eight one-bedroom suites and four two-bedroom suites, not to mention a pair of conference rooms.

The University Station project in Westwood includes a hotel, as does the massive redevelopment of the Northwest Park in Burlington, a project that includes a new Wegmans and several restaurants.

The hotels are being built where there is rising demand for beds for weary business travelers, Matthews said.

Along I-495, major technology firms like EMC are constantly generating business for local hotels as clients and executives come and go for meetings, as are TJX and Staples, both magnets for retail industry buyers and sellers, he said.

“These headquarters actually generate a lot of direct economic impact, including hotel stays and restaurant meals,” he said.

Behind all this commercial development, from new labs and offices to new hotels, is a local economy that is firmly back on track for growth, he said.

The total payroll of companies along the I-495 corridor expanded by nearly 10 percent, to $19 billion, over the past four years, Matthews said.

So in Waltham, the Marriott Courtyard recently added 51 rooms to keep up with rising demand from business travelers, noted Keith Wentzel, managing director of Fantini & Gorga, which helped arrange financing for the project. The hotel had reached the point where it was turning away business people looking for rooms during the busy Tuesday-Thursday stretch of the week, he said.

“I think lenders are looking at it from the perspective that [hotels] are a good market right now, the fundamentals are strong and they are willing to loan against those types of properties,” Wentzel said.

Yet no matter how busy they are during the week catering to business executives, most suburban hotels need more to survive. So they shift gears to stay full on weekends.

The Hilton in Marlborough will offer a lodging option for parents and young athletes who come to town for weekend sports leagues and tournaments, said Cummings, who dubbed it “youth sports tourism.”

In Hopkinton, Zieff said, his proposed hotel will include amenities like a spa, performance space, and even a movie theater, helping create a “destination” for weekend getaways.

“The real challenge will be what you do on weekends,” he said.

This article originally appeared here.