Plaza Las Américas looking to build hotel on mall grounds
Shopping mall owner and operator Empresas Fonalledas is undergoing the permit process to build a 250-room hotel on the grounds of the Plaza Las Américas shopping center in the Hato Rey sector of San Juan, according to government documents. Sources close to the project said the hotel would likely be located on the former National Guard facilities adjacent to the mall, the grounds of which the company also owns.
In early May, Banco Popular approved a $250 million loan to Empresas Fonalledas, of which $100 million will finance improvements in the mall itself, including remodeling retail space between anchor stores J.C. Penney's and Macy's, opening the island's first Sports Authority outlet and redeveloping the National Guard facilities. The remaining $150 million will be used to pay off a debt from a 1999 bond issue used to add about 100 stores, including Macy's, to the mall.
Another large-scale hotel project currently in the permit process is the island's first Aloft Hotel. Slated to be the fourth hotel to be developed in San Juan's Convention Center District, the Aloft is expected to add 252 rooms to the local hotel-room inventory. Alongside the Aloft, the 302-room Marriott Courtyard at the Convention Center is also undergoing the permit process and would become the third hotel to open in the district. Once completed, both hotels would increase the convention district's room inventory by nearly 50%. The district's sole existing lodging, the Sheraton Hotel, has 503 rooms, while the Hyatt House hotel, now under construction, will have 126 rooms.
The Aloft Hotels brand, owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, has grown rapidly since its first hotel opened in Montreal in 2008. There are 46 Aloft locations worldwide, with 20 more in development. A third hotel project, Lagoon Plaza, is also reportedly moving forward in the permit process. The 302-room hotel would be located on the grounds of the Laguna Shopping Center in Carolina, adjacent to the main runway of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.
The hotel's development has been several years in the making, due in great part to the necessity of demolishing the existing structure, which houses several retail establishments, medical offices and a glass mosaic considered by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture as a "historical heritage" site. The project has had the approval of several government entities throughout the years, the most important of which is the Federal Aviation Administration. However, concerns about the height of the hotel, which is in close proximity to airport runways, have long represented a point of contention for the project.
The hotel developments, if completed, would go in line with goals set by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. to add 6,500 rooms to the island's lodging inventory during the next few years (see Front Page story on page 18).