The hotel building boom in San Diego continues unabated. Two new hotel projects at a Little Italy site are now under review by Civic San Diego. Most of the structures on the property surrounded by Hawthorn, State, Grape, and Columbia streets will be demolished.
The owner/developer is listed as “AHST 8 LLC” in the plans submitted to CivicSD. The developer company is actually Wm Builders, Inc. in Scripps Ranch. Architectural firm is AVRP Skyport Studios of San Diego. AVRP won a Golden Nugget Award from Pacific Coast Builders Conference for its design of the new Seaport San Diego project.
The Columbia & Hawthorn project proposes a 9-story, 83-foot-tall residential and hotel building with 33 apartments, 22 hotel rooms, a restaurant, and 101 automobile parking spaces. The State & Grape project proposes a 9-story, 86-foot tall residential and hotel building with 92 apartments, 56 hotel rooms, and 64 parking spaces. The site is adjacent to I-5.
The projects are located in the Downtown Community Plan area and require development permits “for deviations from development standards.” The Columbia & Hawthorn hotel will rise on the southeast corner of Columbia and Hawthorn streets. The State & Grape hotel will be constructed on the northwest corner of State and Grape streets.
Gary Smith is president of San Diego Downtown Residents Group, a nonprofit organization that deals with community development issues in several neighborhoods including Little Italy. Smith said that “the residential lobbies are problematic, just a door on the street opening to elevator lobby; so is off-street loading for residential buildings. Hope for some improvement [and] perfectly good background design.”
Bruce Baltin, managing director at CBRE Hotels Consulting based in Los Angeles, deals with hotel developers in San Diego. Baltin said the San Diego market can easily absorb more hotel projects.
“Cities like new hotels,” Baltin said. He added that prospective residents of this type of hotel enjoy the extra services offered, such as a restaurant, room service, and housekeeping. As for branding, Baltin said the hotels might not go with national brands due to their size.
Harborview Inn & Suites (rated 2.5 stars on Yelp.com), 550 W. Grape Street (at Columbia Street) will stay at its current location. That hotel owner declined to be interviewed for this article. Wm Builders and AVRP Skyport Studios did not immediately respond to a request for comments.
The first public meetings are: Downtown Community Planning Council pre-design subcommittee, on September 12 at 5:15 p.m.; and CivicSD design review subcommittee, September 13 at 9 a.m. Both take place at 401 B Street, suite 400. After more meetings (to be announced), the final decision rests with the CivicSD board of directors.