Hotels du Jour

As occupancies decline and credit markets tighten, hoteliers are discovering the best use of their limited resources may be reinvesting in existing properties. That reality, coupled with an aging inventory of major hotels and evolving quality standards, pressures hotel owners to renovate and reposition their buildings.

Gensler’s expertise in this specialty allows hotel owners to be more nimble in responding to shifting consumer trends, too. The industry is quickly embracing consumer interest in authentic interiors, sustainable practices and streamlined design — while the emergence of a more youthful market drives demand for more current attitudes and styles in hotel brands.

Good for Business

In renovating the San Francisco Hilton Financial District, the hotelier wanted to convert an imposing Chinatown Holiday Inn into an attractive, four-star haven for business travelers. The repositioning strategy focused design effort on making over the hotel’s street-level façade and a complete rethinking of the public spaces inside.

The first order of business was improving the fortress-like concrete base of the building — a dark, uninviting space visually disconnected from the lobby. Gensler’s designers started by extending the lobby outward, cladding it in floor-to-ceiling glass and aluminum panels. They added glass panels and lighting under a sky-bridge that had given the entrance its cavernous feel. Dramatic lighting now makes the hotel entrance the brightest spot on the street, like a theater marquee. Inside, existing escalators connecting the lobby and meeting spaces upstairs are concealed behind cabinetwork that creates cozy niches for reading the paper or sipping an espresso.

“It feels civilized and residential,” says Gensler’s Jeff Henry, design director in the firm’s San Francisco office.

Eastern Ways

Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a hotel operator known for its extensive collection of San Francisco Bay Area boutique properties, approached Gensler to design the Hotel Kabuki in the heart of San Francisco’s famed Japantown. With traditional Japanese culture as its springboard, the hotel’s comprehensive repositioning incorporates authentic elements such as tatami flooring, circular openings and serene gardens. Existing architectural details from the former Miyako Hotel were enhanced and new elements — such as tokonoma alcoves — executed in a contemporary manner to transport this late 1960s property into the 21st Century.

The project’s scope included remodeling 218 rooms that were upgraded with custom furniture, new finishes and sliding graphic screens in place of draperies. Many rooms feature deep, rectangular furo tubs where guests are encouraged to soak in the room-supplied bath salts. Other renovations encompassed the ground-floor entrance and lobby, front desk, lounge areas, pre-function spaces and meeting rooms — including the Imperial Ballroom.

The Way to San Jose

In the context of Silicon Valley’s robust technology industry, DiNapoli Capital Partners saw an opportunity to attract the city’s leisure and business travelers by renovating its aging Crowne Plaza San Jose hotel. By partnering with Gensler’s hospitality group, DiNapoli not only refurbished the downtown property, but successfully repositioned the Crowne Plaza into an intimately scaled boutique hotel whose hip décor appeals to an overlooked market.

Working with a tight budget, the design team used a few carefully chosen design elements to deliver maximum impact. Emphasis was placed on giving the spaces a residential character and establishing a mood through the use of texture, color and lighting. A casual-but-contemporary living room and lounge set the tone, creating a relaxed setting in which guests can linger and savor their surroundings. Each space offers a new visual treat — with a wide range of experiences that appeal to the senses of taste, touch, smell and sound.

Going Upscale

Postponed by the events of 9/11, the renovation and repositioning of the Courtyard by Marriott in Sherman Oaks, Calif., benefited from rethinking the project in a new context. In assessing the competition, Gensler and Marriott found that prevailing hotel standards were modeled on traditional concepts from the ’70s and ’80s. Courtyard’s target customer, on the other hand, was determined to be a style-conscious Generation X-er who values ambiance and comfort over brand loyalty.

This revelation redirected the design strategy, placing greater emphasis on guest experiences. Discrete reception, lounge and sitting areas were reconfigured into a free-flowing arrangement of intimate spaces. With an infusion of color, form and texture, the new Sherman Oaks Courtyard by Marriott fills a need in the L.A. market for chic, affordable accommodations. Since its transformation to the Courtyard brand, the hotel has added new guest services and doubled room rates.

Hollywood Style

Although much revered by the Hollywood elite as the home of the Golden Globe Awards, the iconic 1955 Beverly Hilton hotel showed the signs of five decades of wear and non-stop operation. As architect of record and brand consultant, Gensler revitalized the hotel’s brand to attract and entertain luxury business travelers, as well as the local glitterati.

Prior to beginning design work on the $80 million project, Gensler commissioned market research to help the new owner define client profiles. Among the results: luxury travelers still associate the hotel with the Golden Age of Hollywood — a revelation that directly informed the repositioning strategy. Along with upgrades to the flagship hotel’s major public spaces, Gensler developed a new graphic identity system and even renamed meeting rooms to reflect and reinforce a Golden Globes theme.

“If you set your brand strategy and align design to it, then the hotel repositioning can really work its magic,” says Gensler’s Gail Brackett, a brand and marketing strategist.

Old Town Charm

The colonial-era charm of Old Town Alexandria received an upscale addition with the conversion of the Old Town Holiday Inn into the four-star Hotel Monaco, a 241-room Kimpton hotel. While existing guest rooms were renovated in a contemporary style, the larger strategic moves in the hotel’s repositioning involved the relocation of banquet/meeting space to the ground floor, a building addition within the courtyard to improve circulation/accessibility, and construction of a new 150-seat restaurant in space captured by consolidating an existing pub-style eatery and an open breezeway.

Gensler raised the hotel’s presence along busy King Street by pulling the main entrance out from beneath the old breezeway and announcing it with an illuminated marquee emblazoned with the hotel’s name. Common spaces on the first floor were redesigned to meet Kimpton’s brand and identity standards, while maintaining a feeling unique to the historic setting. Original fifth-floor meeting rooms were reprogrammed as unique, two-level loft suites that added new keys to the property and command high rates.

Vernon Mays
—Gensler Firmwide Communications


Matthew Millman Photography: pages 1, 3
Sherman Takata Photography: pages 2, 6b
Gary Payne Photography: page 4
Milroy & McAleer Photography: page 5
Shamus Halkowich: page 6a, d
Benny Chan, Fotoworks: page 6c

Kenneth M. Wyner Photography: page 7

*For detailed information, please roll over imagery on individual story pages.

Read More
from Dialogue 16: Talking about... Leisure, Shopping & Travel in 2009

Download "Repositioning Hotels" (PDF)
Download "Meet the Frugalistas" (PDF)

Gensler Hospitality Contacts
Ed Grun (Gensler—Houston):
Nancy Nodler (Gensler—Houston):
Tom Ito (Gensler
—Los Angeles):

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