Few developments breathe new life into a destination like an iconic hotel that has been carefully restored to its former glory. Despite the economy, there are plenty of prime examples of hotels going beyond renovation to reinvention, emerging as entirely new gathering places for visitors and locals alike.
California Dream Inn
Originally opened in 1963, the Santa Cruz Dream Inn is one of the surprisingly few California hotels with a prime beachfront location. Now managed by San Francisco-based Joie de Vivre, the 165-room hotel, a mere shell’s throw from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, has emerged from an 18-month renovation with a fine dining restaurant and 3,500 square feet of new meeting and event space with floor-to-ceiling windows framing views of Monterey Bay.
"The hotel always had a great location, but not the right product to appeal to corporate and high-end leisure guests," says Tracy Norwood, director of sales. "While there’s a nod to the boardwalk and surfing and we’re a little bit retro chic, we’re not completely themed. First and foremost our aim was to update what was dated."
The Dream Inn’s original wing now houses the new meeting and event space and the Aquarius restaurant, which has a focus on sustainable seafood, organic produce and local wines. The guest rooms, all of which feature balconies and bay views, were redecorated and appointed with iPod docking stations, luxury bedding, minibars, complimentary wireless Internet connectivity and bathrooms with rain shower heads.
While the hotel’s meeting space accommodates up to 250 attendees, the ideal size of groups staying in-house is between 50 and 100, Norwood says, adding that the renovation has enabled the property to reposition itself.
"We’re now getting business from Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area—business that once would have bypassed us for Monterey," she says. "We’re getting midweek training meetings and we’re finding a niche among weekend executive retreats."
San Francisco Treat
Long a landmark on San Francisco’s Union Square, the Westin St. Francis has emerged from a renovation that was its most extensive since the earth moved back in 1906. Just as the hotel was reborn in the early 20th century, it is now ready to take on the demands of a new era.
"Our whole goal was to respect our history and heritage, but make sure we have all the new bells and whistles," says General Manager Jon Kimball.
Much of the $40 million makeover focused on the hotel’s original 1904 main building, including the refurbishment of the 614 guest rooms, the meeting spaces and the main lobby, a traditional meeting spot for generations of San Franciscans, with its marble pillars and Great Magneta Clock originally installed in 1907.
"We maintained the beautiful crown molding and chandeliers in the guest rooms, but made sure they provide a user-friendly environment with ergonomic chairs, high-speed wireless Internet and the plug-ins that people need," Kimball says.
New spaces just off the lobby include the Clock Bar, which gives a nod to history with its two glass columns with ticker clocks showing the times in cities around the world. Display cases mounted in the lobby of the tower building are filled with memorabilia from historic occasions at the hotel,
While the St. Francis has always been an important meetings hotel, Kimball says the renovation came at the right time.
"In these very competitive times, it’s nice to have a fresh product to sell," he says.
Reborn in Berkeley
When the Shattuck Plaza opened in 1910 two blocks from the University of California at Berkeley, it was the grandest hotel in town. During the following century, the property, built in the California Mission style, had its ups and downs before reopening earlier this year after a massive renovation that transformed it into a modern boutique hotel with an historic exterior.
"When the hotel was purchased in 2007 by owners who include former Cal alums, the idea was to return it to its former glory," says Scott Slocum, director of sales and marketing.
The 199-room hotel, which was completely gutted during the renovation, features 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 2,800-square-foot Crystal Ballroom, restored to its early 20th century splendor, and the Whitecotton Room, a top-floor banquet space with views of the Berkeley hills and San Francisco Bay. Additions to the hotel include Five, a restaurant serving American fare with an emphasis on local and organic ingredients.
What hasn’t changed is a central location not only close to the university but steps from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the Berkeley Repertory Theater and other downtown amenities.
"Because of our location, a lot of our meetings business is coming from groups associated with the university as well as local corporations," Slocum says. "It’s also a big advantage being so close to BART—people can fly into the Oakland or San Francisco airports and get here by rapid transit."
Garden Isle Glamour
Reopened in October after a year-long renovation, Kauai’s St. Regis Princeville, formerly the Princeville Resort, has a new island-inspired look and feel more in tune with its idyllic surroundings on Hanalei Bay. The 252-room hotel, which opened in 1986, has been upgraded to St. Regis status, providing signature amenities that include butler service for guests staying in the property’s 50 suites.
"What people will find is the best of Kauai and the best of the St. Regis brand—which is not only a first for the island but for Hawaii," says Chris White, director of sales and marketing. "What we’ve done is to integrate the St. Regis service values with a genuine spirit and feeling of aloha."
Among major changes is the addition of Hale Le’a Spa, which offers 12 treatment rooms, a salon and 24-hour fitness center. The spa also features a wellness program and treatments based on traditional Hawaiian healing arts.
There are also a new signature restaurant and a redesigned pool area with cabanas and an infinity pool overlooking the bay. The 27-hole Makai golf course, which has been closed for renovation and is one of two championship courses at the resort, will reopen early next year.
According to White, the hotel, as in the past, will primarily target corporate meeting and incentive business, with the ideal size ranging from 75 to 125 rooms.