Lane Field hotels open with ‘Cheery Yellow’ flourish
Six decades after Lane Field baseball park became a parking lot, a $375 million redevelopment officially opened its first phase on San Diego’s downtown waterfront Thursday with promises of much more to come.
Construction is expected to begin in a few months on a twin but upscale 400-room InterContinental Hotel by the same development team of Lankford & Associates and Atlanta developer Portman Holdings; John Portman & Associates architects; and contractor Hensel Phelps.
Port Chairman Marshall Merrifield said the waterfront will continue to improve this year with a new Carnitas Snack Shack viewing platform just south of Broadway on the Embarcadero this year — not to mention plans for replacing Anthony’s Seafood Grotto, Seaport Village and the Navy Broadway Complex in the years ahead.
He noted that the hotel site is where the Pacific Coast League Padres played from 1936 to 1957 and then the ballfield was replaced by a “sea of asphalt” for parking.
“Now we have a gorgeous front porch to welcome (visitors) and entice them to spend even more time along the waterfront,” Merrifield told attendees at a ribbon-cutting ceremony, marred only by lightly falling rain.
Environmentalists and the California Coastal Commission, as well as the port, convinced local developer Rob Lankford to redesign the project to make room for a 150-foot-wide setback park. The intervening recession held up a construction start and forced a downgrading of the hotels to limited service and extended-stay setups.
It’s taken 10 years to complete the first hotel tower, but Lankford said changes were “the right thing to do,” not only to get a new park but also to build more affordable hotels, currently charging $180 to $200 per night, half what upscale hotels typically charge.
Even as dignitaries congratulated each other, San Diego Unified Port District CEO, Randa Coniglio, said congressional authorization is in the works to replace the Navy Facilities Engineering Command’s parking spaces west of the hotel with a northward extension of Lane Field Park that opened last year. The engineering staff would get replacement parking elsewhere.
Coniglio said discussions have yet to resume to move the engineering offices just north of the hotels so that land can be offered for development of another hotel, office or another use.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer harkened back nearly 20 years to the preparation of the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan that he worked on as a City Council member.
“Thanks for making sure this waterfront is a waterfront for all San Diegans to enjoy,” Faulconer said to port and city officials and the development team at the opening ceremony. “That was one of our guiding principles from the beginning.”
Hotel general manager Michael Murphy, acting as master of ceremonies, took a moment to call attention to the painted yellow stripe covering the south-facing elevator tower. He said the color represents “fun, happiness and creativity.”
But project architect Gordon Beckman, who led a tour of the building, said the color was inspired by the signal flags on the nearby Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum.
The carrier and downtown city buildings are mostly gray, he said, and a bit of color is needed to add boldness to the urban landscape.
The lobby, which serves both hotels, carries forward the yellow theme with a concrete wall painted what Beckman said is marketed as “Cheery Yellow.”
“It gets people engaged and talking,” Beckman said.
The wall is also marked by round construction-form indentations that hotel sales executive Corey Lombard has prompted guests to compare with a Lego brick.
Yellow is the accent color for the wallpaper in the 147-room Residence Inn wings on the hotel’s east side.
Blue is the accent color on doors in the 253 SpringHill Suites on the west. Subtle color changes in the carpet also signal each brand’s location.
On the fifth floor are a breakfast room serving both hotels, a 41/2-foot-deep lap pool and an outdoor landscaped terrace. The terrace was originally planned for hotel guest use, but access requirements complicated that approach, and the area, at least for now, is landscaped with fake grass and gravel, Beckman said.
The roof line was kept low so it wouldn’t block views for residents to the east, he added.
The same level also includes a ballroom, meeting rooms and outdoor space overlooking San Diego Bay. Below the meeting level are a series of restaurant and retail spaces expected to be leased and opened over the next few months.
In the guest rooms, Beckman noted the floor-to-ceiling, double-paned windows that increase the view to the bay or downtown and screen out noise from airplanes headed for Lindbergh Field.
Photo paintings of local scenes by artist Janet Van Arsdale decorate the rooms.
“This building is fabulous for this location,” he said.
The Residence Inn units are a bit larger because they have kitchenettes. Lombard said hotel occupancy has exceeded expectations in its first six weeks, and both have sold out several days already.
Beckman said he was disappointed by some details in the final product.
Frosted glass was unnecessarily installed on end-unit bathrooms and drapes rather than blinds, which reduces some views for guests. He also said he was sorry beige is the dominant color in some furnishings.
But he congratulated hotel planners for allowing concrete pillars and walls to remain unpainted.
“Concrete is the poor man’s granite,” he said.