While the Hotel Californian will not open until this summer, about 200 guests gathered at the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation (MOXI) on March 29 to celebrate this ultra high-end hotel being built at the corner of State and Mason Streets. Politicians, business and nonprofit leaders, other notable figures, and the press mingled with the developers, project managers, management, and key staff of the Preferred Hotels & Resorts property. Guests had free run to explore MOXI as well, but the high energy of the party kept most everyone in its ambit.
The original Hotel Californian, located on the same site, first opened in 1925 and was part of the new wave of Spanish Colonial Revival style structures built in Santa Barbara. A week after opening, the notorious earthquake struck, which forced the hotel to close for massive repairs. It reopened and flourished into the 1950s, until that lower State Street area began its slow decline.
The current owner and developer, 35 State Street Hotel Partners (an affiliate of Woodridge Capital Partners LLC), purchased the property in 2011, but a project has been in the works for the site since the early 1990s. After a couple of changes in ownership and significant changes in plans over the past quarter century, the hotel is just months away from opening.
Mike Rosenfeld, owner of 35 State Street Partners, shared how he wanted to honor the Spanish Colonial Revival style and is pleased that they were able to keep the original hotel’s facade. Rosenfeld also wanted to add some fun by bringing in other influences as well. He hired celebrity designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard who, in his own words, crafted “a Moorish design with a modern twist.” There are Moroccan and Spanish Colonial influences throughout the property. Luxurious appointments abound, including a $3,700 oil-rubbed bronze shower head in each of the rooms. Hotel room rates will start at $550.
The 121-room hotel occupies three corners of the State and Mason Street intersection (one block south of the train station) and consists of three buildings, paseos, gardens and plazas. All of the hotel rooms are in two buildings except for a 1,700 Presidential Suite, which is in a separate building along with event venues, including a 3,000 square foot ballroom, a 3,500 square foot rooftop deck, and a 4,200 square foot plaza lawn.
The complex also includes a Moroccan-inspired spa, fitness center, a 1,300 square foot rooftop and pool deck, meeting rooms, and a boutique. There will be an indoor/outdoor restaurant featuring Mediterranean and contemporary American cuisine, which will showcase area produce, seafood, and wines. Rosenfeld tapped Chef Alexander La Motte from the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco so the quality will surely be top notch, but Rosenfeld emphasized that the feel will be casual and unpretentious. There will also be a gourmet café and market and a wine bar.
Rosenfeld addressed the guests during a short program. He exuded a warm, friendly spirit and was understandably proud and excited about his six-year undertaking being close to completion. He announced that the hotel will be an integral part of Santa Barbara and “we will be embracing the local community — this is all about the people who live here and we welcome you and we will support you and embrace you. This is a true SB property.”
Mayor Helene Schneider addressed the guests, noting that “Santa Barbara tends to be very particular about how things look,” so a development gets to be quite a production. She shared her excitement about the “gorgeous” project and credited the team for its success. She noted how it was part of an amazing transformation of lower State Street, along with MOXI, the bridge replacement, and developments in the Funk Zone. Schneider shared that there will be 180 full time jobs associated with the property.
In closing, Rosenfeld said, “thank you all for supporting us and believing in us when belief was suspended on this property. I promise personally to deliver on the dream.” There was loud applause as guests adjourned to the rooftop for a viewing of the property from the top of MOXI.
For more information about the Hotel Californian, go to thehotelcalifornian.com.
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By Gail Arnold