Montgomery, Ala. (WSFA) -- It's one of the biggest economic development projects to hit downtown in years. The new Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa opened Monday at the city's new, expanded convention center. It all amounts to a more than $200 million dollar investment.
"You don't get the feel that you're in Montgomery," said Dawn Hathcock of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's such an incredible facility."
The 4-star hotel boasts 350 rooms, including a lavish presidential suite overlooking the Alabama River. Each room also includes the latest technology, including flat-screen televisions and cordless telephones that allow guests to accept calls from anywhere in the building.
Downstairs, there's a ballroom, restaurant and bar.
And upstairs, guests can indulge themselves in the spa, which includes a fitness center, treatment rooms, and a zero-entry roof-top swimming pool.
The additional meeting space in the convention center means Montgomery can now attract larger conventions.
"People will be coming to downtown Montgomery daily. They'll be sleeping in downtown and looking for ways to spend their money," said the city of Montgomery's Jeff Downes.
Downes also pointed to other downtown redevelopment projects like the riverwalk and amphitheater, the baseball stadium, and a new alleyway that promises to bring a touch of the New Orleans french quarter to Montgomery.
The convention center also include an 18-hundred seat theater. The Montgomery Performing Arts Centre will attract Broadway touring shows and other big-name entertainment acts.
"The performing arts center will open in March," Hathcock said. "They already have an impressive line up."
The new facility is designed to Montgomery on the map, when compared to other comparable convention cities like Jackson, Mississippi, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright got the ball rolling when he asked the Retirement Systems of Alabama to invest in a new convention center for downtown.
"We put together a public private partnership between the city and ourselves to redo the civic center," said RSA Chief David Bronner. "That was his primary interest. My primary interest was that you really need another hotel downtown if you want to change downtown."
In addition to the Renaissance, Hampton Inn and Suites has begun renovation work on a 86-room hotel nearby. And an Embassy Suites hotel remains open across the street. The three combine to provide downtown about 500 hotel rooms.
All three facilities give downtown Montgomery more than 500 hotel rooms.
Monday's opening was considered a 'soft' opening. A grand opening ceremony is set for February 21st. The convention center's grand opening will coincide with the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Awards and Concert on February 22nd.