Ahead of the Times

When Bill Marriott was building the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square in the late 1960s, he said his industry peers thought he was crazy to put a hotel on the city's west side. So much for conventional wisdom. Last week at the 21st annual Hospitality Investment Conference, Marriott received the C. Everett Johnson Award for real estate finance acumen. The award, which the Marriott chairman accepted in the ballroom of the Marquis, was presented by IRECFAC, the premiere international real estate finance organization.

Marriott wasn't the only company in the region to be recognized at the conference. District-based MeriStar Hotels & Resorts received the "Deal of the Year" award. MeriStar is the company created last year by the merger of CapStar Hospitality and American General Hospitality.

-- Judith Evans

Beyond Sprawl

The construction of MCI Center downtown and the way that Rouse Co. has embraced Maryland's "smart growth" development policies are prime examples of how businesses can help fight sprawl, according to a study that's being released today.

Sprawl issues are often discussed in a no-growth vs. pro-growth way -- if you don't like it, it's sprawl; if you do, it's growth. That tends to put businesses on the pro-growth side, but things don't have to be that way, according to the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals. The group says that its study "identifies the beginnings of a major attitude shift in the business community away from resisting growth control initiatives and toward supporting efforts to channel the pattern and character of local economic development."

Abe Pollin's MCI Center is lauded for helping to foster growth downtown instead of in the suburbs. Rouse gets a nod for supporting Gov. Parris Glendening's growth control initiative and continuing to work within its rules.

The report, "Profiles of Business Leadership on Smart Growth," is available through the association's Web site at www.nalgep.org/sg.html.

-- Maryann Haggerty

DID YOU HEAR? . . .

"I got tired of sour milk and dead houseplants."

-- Olympus Group CEO Julie Holdren on why she hired, and pays a third of her salary to, a full-time "house manager."

Artful Dressing

Just because it's the oh-so-serious-sounding International Monetary Fund Art Society Gala, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be fun.

Guaranteeing a little fun is just what society president Linda Byron had in mind when she noted on the invitation to Thursday's gala, "Business attire, creative black tie or national costume welcome."

Creative black tie?

"Why not wear a tuxedo with blue jeans or a cummerbund with a jean jacket over it ... or even an evening gown with sneakers?"

But Linda, are you really sure you want guests to show up at your gala wearing something that could look like a combination of after-5 dress-up and after-gardening mess-up?

"Sure, you can just bring something to the office that's fun to go with whatever you wear to work that day."

The possibilities are endless -- and a little frightening.

-- Tracy Grant

CAPTION: The hospitality industry changed its tune about Bill Marriott's Times Square vision.