It wasn't so long ago that hotel operators were having problems filling their rooms. Now they're building. Occupancy rates are rising, and hotel operators are investing in renovations...

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It wasn’t so long ago that hotel operators were having problems filling their rooms.

Now they’re building.

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Occupancy rates are rising, and hotel operators are investing in renovations and new hotels. Developers plan to build more than 12 hotels in the Seattle area, about half on the Eastside.

Developers are feeling optimistic about the economy and want to have their hotels completed when demand picks up in two to three years, said Wolfgang Rood of Wolfgang Rood Hospitality Consulting.

Occupancy rates have been steadily rising from 2002, when rates bottomed out at about 61 percent on the Eastside and 66 percent in Seattle, and now stand at 75 percent in Seattle and 68.4 percent on the Eastside, Rood said.

In downtown Bellevue, Marriott has a Courtyard under construction; Wasatch Property Management of Utah has proposed a 250-room hotel on the northeast corner of 106th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Eighth Street; and Kemper Freeman is adding a 279-room tower to the Bellevue Hyatt and building a 337-room Westin at Lincoln Square.

Hotels are proposed for downtown Kirkland and Totem Lake Mall. Earlier this year, the new owners of Totem Lake Mall proposed razing some of it to build apartments, offices and a 144-room hotel, while construction is expected to start early next year on a $20 million 92-room hotel at 220 Kirkland Ave.

The former Silver Cloud Inn on Northeast 124th Street in Kirkland recently underwent a $500,000 remodel and is a 97-room Comfort Inn. Marriott, which opened a 258-room hotel at Redmond Town Center in June, also plans to start construction in the second half of 2005 on a 150-room Courtyard hotel on Northeast 124th Street in the Totem Lake neighborhood.

People’s choice

Alison Oresman of Bellevue received some rather sweet news last month. People magazine named the author’s cookbook, “The Pastry Queen,” one of the seven best cookbooks of the year.

Oresman, former entertainment editor for The Miami Herald, teamed up with Robin Rather, a Texas pastry chef and bakery owner, to write “The Pastry Queen: Royally Good Recipes from the Texas Hill Country’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe.”

The cookbook features more than 125 recipes from Robin Rather’s Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe, including recipes for pecan pie bars, cheddar scones and Caesar salad pizzas.

Rather and Oresman cooked up the idea to write a cookbook when they met on horseback at a cattle drive and cowboy cookout. Oresman flew down to Texas several times to work with Rather in her kitchen and to scale down her recipes for amateur cooks.

The cookbook is Oresman’s first book.

Member rewards

The Bellevue Chamber is launching a discount card for its members just in time for the holidays.

The card is free for chamber members and is good for discounts on services and products at participating companies. The chamber is launching the program to help local companies build customer loyalty and increase sales. More than 70,000 employees of chamber members will receive the card.

The chamber is recruiting local companies to join the program and is asking interested businesses to offer a minimum 10 percent discount throughout the year.

To sign up for the program, contact Denise Jannusch at the chamber at 425-213-1205 or

Bidding for work

Bellevue debuts its citywide roster Jan. 3 on its Web site to notify companies of upcoming city contracts that are open for bids.

The city reworked the way it awards contracts after the Bellevue Chamber and local companies complained the system wasn’t fair or clear.

The city has since trained staff members on the changes, moved contract services to the Finance Department and made it easier to sign up on vendor lists.

To sign up, go to, or call the city’s contracting services office at 425-452-7876.

Giving back

Athena Partners, a Kirkland water bottler, and Tully’s Coffee raised $60,000 selling pink wristbands to benefit breast-cancer research centers. The two companies sold the wristbands at Seattle-area Tully’s stores in October. The money will be given to six area charities:

• The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, for research to identify early signs of blood cancer.

• Virginia Mason Medical Center, for research on a vaccine to prevent tumor cells.

• Cancer Lifeline, which plans to develop a lecture series and educational program about breast cancer.

• Gilda’s Club of Seattle, for lectures about cancer treatment, prevention and research.

• Team Survivor Northwest, for educational speakers at an annual retreat and for a new swim program.

• Providence Hospice of Seattle.

Kristina Shevory: 206-464-2039 or