PORTLAND — As debate about a hotel event facility that would be built in Congress Square Plaza has captured public attention, it’s easy to forget that the hotel itself will soon reopen after being closed the past two years for renovation.
The Westin Portland Harborview Hotel, at 157 High St. and adjoining the plaza, is scheduled for a “soft opening” on Dec. 12, General Manager Bruce Wennerstrom said Friday.
The Westin, formerly the 86-year-old Eastland Park Hotel, has been closed while it undergoes a $50 million renovation and expansion. When it opens, the hotel will include 289 guest rooms, more than any hotel in the state.
The historic “Eastland” signs already top the building, but will be lit by energy-efficient LED bulbs and include a Westin logo. The 12th-story landmark lounge, Top of the East, will again provide panoramic views in a space that is roughly double its original size.
The only Maine property in a 185-hotel chain, the Westin Portland is already being marketed on the chain’s website and through tourism sites. Another downtown hotel under construction, the 131-room Courtyard by Marriott at 321 Commercial St., is marketed online, but is not accepting reservations until May.
A third hotel-in-progress, the 123-room Hyatt Express at Fore and Union streets, is also expected to open next spring. But so far, that addition to Portland’s hot hotel market doesn’t have a presence on the Hyatt.com website.
At the Westin, Wennerstrom said rooms are well-booked, and a search on the website turned up few dates open for reservations.
Room prices range from $192-$254 a night, according to the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Parties and events won’t be held until the hotel is fully operational in February or March, Wennerstrom said. He said he expects weddings to be a big business for the Westin, as it was for the Eastland.
“People are booking weddings because of the hotel’s wonderful history,” he said.
That history includes stays by such illustrious figures as Charles Lindbergh, who visited in 1927 after completing his transatlantic flight.
Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt would be surprised by one of the Westin’s marketing ploys.
Roosevelt tried to book a room in 1946, but insisted on keeping her dog, Fala, in her room. The Eastland refused.
Today, the Westin advertises itself as pet-friendly.