Westin Birmingham Hotel opens; Bell says more on the way

© Mayor William Bell and others participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the grand opening of the new Westin Hotel in downtown Birmingham. (

It's been years in the making. A $50 million pipedream now a 294 room luxurious reality.

But to appreciate the finish line, celebrating the opening of the new Westin Birmingham Hotel, you have to understand all that went into it.

Mayor William Bell remembers years of criticism about the hotel. He says people would tell him it was a dead end with no support and no money.

"Each one of those obstacles we overcame," Bell said. "And now it's time to celebrate the opening of the Westin Hotel and the future opening of the Entertainment District."

"I can't honestly say I've ever opened a hotel," comedian, D. L. Hughley, said.

Hughley was the hotel's first, official guest, Thursday. He says the{}Westin is one thing, but{}for it to be in Birmingham is another.

"I think, particular, for Birmingham, it wasn't really that long ago where I wouldn't have been allowed to stay here and now I'm the first guy here," Hughley said. "I think it says a lot about how far we've come as a country and particularly how far this city has come. It's an amazing thing."

And the amazement isn't over.

"This year, later in the year, this Entertainment District will be filled with a variety of unique venues and restaurants," BJCC Board Chairman, Dennis Latham, said.

Restaurants like the Todd English P.U.B. that is already booming with business.

Bell says other businesses haven't been named yet, but there are plenty of irons in the fire.

"We have a number of memorandum of understandings that we're going to be finalizing," Bell said. "And we'll just wait and see. We don't want to have all of the excitement on today."