Fess Starts Cabrillo Hotel: It’s taken him years, but Fess Parker has finally broken ground for a 150-room hotel neighboring his 1986 Doubletree Resort. The Independent recently reported on site-clearing activity there, but today it was officially announced: Construction is beginning on the $90 million resort on East Cabrillo Boulevard at Calle Cesar Chavez next to Chase Palm Park.

The resort is due to open in the fall of 2009. Renderings of what Parker, 83, describes as a five-star hotel, can be viewed at FessParker.com.

On the Beat

The building will be big and the room rates, although not announced, will no doubt be high as well. When finished, it will be part of a wave of hotel projects catapulting Santa Barbara into the category of a major international destination. The prestigious Orient-Express group is doing a multi-million-dollar rebuilding of the hillside El Encanto, overlooking the city; Ty Warner has spent around $200 million buying and improving the Four Seasons Biltmore and has sunk millions into the San Ysidro Ranch; and developer Rick Caruso has just submitted revised plans to rebuild the beachfront Miramar Hotel.

Add those to the high-end Bacara Resort & Spa and Parker’s 360-room Doubletree, also on Cabrillo Boulevard, plus numerous smaller but elite properties, like the Simpson House Inn and Upham Hotel, and you have an eye-popping variety of top-quality properties luring tourists and business people from far and wide, to a small community.

If you didn’t think you were living in a tourist town, think again.

Although Parker has long had city’s OK to build, he has struggled to find the right setup. And it hasn’t come cheap. To meet city and Coastal Commission requirements, he has to fund the nonprofit Rodney Shull Memorial Foundation, which will build a 100-bed hostel on State Street on land he is donating-a $5 million project.

To win approval to build the 3.4-acre hotel, the Parker family donated five acres along Cabrillo that is now part of Chase Palm Park. “The Parker family, since 1998, has contributed over $62,500 annually to the city of Santa Barbara to help maintain the park,” the Parker family said today in a news release. “When the resort is completed, the park maintenance costs contributed by the Parkers will increase to $125,000 annually in a long-term agreement.”

Fess Parker, who won fame as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone from the 1950s to 1970, has lived here since buying a home in Hope Ranch in 1960 and now lives in the Santa Ynez Valley with his wife Marcella. The family also operates the 21-room four-diamond Fess Parker’s Wine Country Inn in Los Olivos and the nearby Parker Winery on Foxen Canyon Road. Parker continues to be a joint-venture, 50-50 partner with Hilton Hotels in the Doubletree Resort. There was no announcement about whether Parker has partners in the new hotel or who will operate it.

Over half the rooms in the new hotel will have balconies with ocean and garden views, Parker said. There will also be 4,000 square feet of meeting space “to attract small corporate business during mid-week, off-season periods,” the release said. There will be restaurant, lounge, pool and fitness facilities and a spa. Melchiori of Santa Barbara is the contractor.


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