Downtown’s Latest Luxury Hotel On Track To Open Next Year
Developers of San Diego’s latest luxury hotel, a 400-room InterContinental on the downtown waterfront, celebrated a construction milestone Wednesday with the completion of the highrise’s glass facade.
The topping-off ceremony also marks the start of the final phase of construction, which will culminate with a planned opening in early September of next year.
The InterContinental is the second of two hotels that are being built on the former Lane Field baseball park, the long-ago home of the Pacific Coast League Padres. Already up and operating since early last year is the 400-unit, dual-branded Marriott SpringHill Suites-Residence Inn hotel, which, together with the InterContinental, is part of what’s now being called BRIC — “Broadway at Pacific Highway.”
The InterContinental brand is making a return to San Diego following a 30-year absence. It was last present on the San Diego bayfront in the mid-1980s until Marriott in 1987 took over the hotel and converted it to what is now the Marriott Marquis & Marina on Harbor Drive.
The new InterContinental will include nearly 33,000 square feet of street-level restaurants and shops along Broadway and Pacific Highway and a 686-space subterranean parking garage.
In a nod to its location overlooking San Diego Bay, there will be an 8,000-square-foot fourth-floor pool deck with an area open to the public for view-gazing, as well as a sky bar and outdoor terrace on the 19th floor.
“The topping out is always a big milestone and we’re excited about that and the fact the hotel is on target for opening in early September,” said Roger Zampell, a senior vice president with Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, which teamed with local developer Lankford & Associates on the project. Also part of the development team are architectural firm John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps.
“The whole design concept was to take advantage of the views of the bay,” Zampell added. “We put the hotel registration lobby on the third floor where you will see the view of the bay. It’s very outwardly focused in design so you’ll know right away you’re in San Diego, not Kansas City.”
As part of the project’s indoor-outdoor feel on the lower levels, the hotel will also include a trio of glass elevators on the building’s exterior to deliver people to the second, third and fourth levels, noted Zampell. The final phase of the already opened Lane Field Park will also be completed via a 55-foot-wide landscaped strip along Broadway.
Next year’s opening of the InterContinental is part of a quasi hotel building boom in San Diego following a years-long drought of new construction. The most recent high profile hotel to open this year was the 317-room Pendry in downtown San Diego. Also planned for downtown is a 153-room Ritz Carlton and another 324-room hotel a block away, although those projects have been on hold because of litigation challenging the project’s environmental review.
Still awaiting approval by the Port of San Diego is a $300 million bayfront complex that calls for an 830-room, 44-story hotel.
Unlike many other major hotel projects in San Diego, the Lane Field hotels have been able to avoid opposition from labor groups by agreeing to union labor for the construction job and by welcoming unionized workers at the finished hotels.
Zampell said his firm is not concerned about an overbuilt hotel market. Lenders, he say, are still strict on their underwriting standards and will be wary of lending if they they think there isn’t sufficient demand.
China Orient Summit Capital Co. provided the project’s equity financing and on its website, the company characterizes the Lane Field project site as “the most visible and desirable location in downtown San Diego.” It predicts that the InterContinental will “deliver strong returns in this hotel market with limited supply.”
The hotel is expected to cater equally to leisure and business travelers, as well as conventioneers and groups booking meeting space within the property. A long hoped-for expansion of the convention center is not necessary to make the project successful, Zampell said.
In fact, his company is so bullish on San Diego that it is scouting downtown for a new hotel location. He noted that the first-phase Marriott hotels have exceeded expectations, boasting an average occupancy rate of 80 percent.
“There’s always a spot for a well conceived project in a good location,” he said. “The market here is so diversified with the leisure travel and other key industries that generate a lot of visitation to the area, we just see that growing with the economy. We’d certainly like to see the convention center expand but (the InterContinental) is not dependent on the expansion going forward.”
The developer is in the process of finalizing leases for ground-floor tenants, which are expected to be dominated by a variety of food and beverage outlets. There will also likely be at least one apparel boutique, but Zampell said he cannot yet divulge the names of the future tenants.
While the hotel will not open until next fall, room rates will likely start at $250 a night during the low season and could escalate to as high as the low and mid $300’s, said Lewis Fader, senior vice president of operations of InterContinental Hotels Group.