CARSON — A new plan to build a 220-room, high-quality hotel with an adjoining six-story office complex in Carson's Civic Center has been approved by city officials, who tentatively agreed to subsidize about $1 million of the $29-million cost.
After three years of stymied efforts to obtain an image-enhancing development for the Civic Center, members of the City Council voted 3 to 0 Monday to approve a proposal by Los Angeles-based Gestec Properties to build a Hotel Ibis and office center.
About 500 hotels have been constructed worldwide by Gestec's parent company, the Accor Group of Paris. Fourteen of those are in the United States. Construction of the Carson project could be under way by March, according to the developer and city officials.
As approved by the City Council, acting as the Carson Redevelopment Agency, the city will subsidize the redevelopment project by selling 6.33 acres of Civic Center property for $3.25 million--about $1 million less than the city paid for the land. Such subsidies are legal under California redevelopment law.
Seven Stories Planned
The seven-story hotel would be at Carson and Bonita streets, just off the San Diego Freeway. It is planned to include a 160-seat restaurant, a lounge, executive meeting rooms, a pool and spa and a roof garden terrace. The hotel would be connected by an outdoor plaza to the 120,000-square-foot office complex, which is intended to house a major financial institution and several other corporations.
"We would like to create a landmark along the freeway," said Christian Frere, president of Gestec Properties, which first expressed an interest in the project last March. "We have done our studies. . . . We know exactly what we want to do."
Frere said his firm will use its own money--through a parent company, Los Angeles-based Indo Suez Bank--to build the project, which is to be patterned after a development in San Francisco. Frere said Accor Group is the seventh-largest hotel developer in the world.
Architectural plans still must be approved by the Carson Planning Commission. In addition, council members must approve a formal contract with the firm. The contract will be considered at a public hearing within several months.
Completion in 1987
Construction could be completed by spring of 1987, Frere said.
The new proposal comes in the wake of nearly three years of unsuccessful efforts to build a Hilton hotel in Carson. Those plans were abandoned in early September by the developer, the Feinberg Group, which said it lacked financing and had persistent problems in city negotiations. The delays cost the city about $150,000 in interest on the loan needed to buy the property, city staff said.
Despite the hotel project's troubled history, city officials voiced optimism over the new proposal. The Civic Center includes City Hall and the $13-million Carson Community Center, a meeting facility for community groups and conventioneers.
"I don't think we'll have the problems we had before," said Councilwoman Sylvia Muise. "There are a number of pluses. They have their own financing. . .. This is a straight buy-out. I think it can be accomplished this time."
"I think this is a good package," agreed Councilman Walter J. Egan. "The staff reports say (Gestec) is an international organization. . . . The hotel rooms are comparable to the Hilton's, and we're getting a free-standing restaurant and a six-story office complex."
Carson officials have long sought a hotel as an image-enhancing, revenue-attracting centerpiece for the largely industrial city. They believe such a development will foster other high-quality construction in Carson.
And although their plans have suffered lengthy delays at a time when hotels have gone up in nearby communities, council members also maintained that there remains an ample market for a hotel in Carson. Hotels are being planned or have recently been built in nearby San Pedro, Harbor Gateway, Gardena and Torrance.
"I don't believe there's a glut for the simple reason that the only thing that comes close to a hotel in Carson is the Ramada Inn, and its occupancy rate is high," said Councilman Thomas Mills. "There is a need for a hotel in Carson. Carson has over 60 industries, and a lot of them attract visitors from across the country."
Criticized by DeWitt
Still, Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt, the most vocal critic of past hotel proposals, again complained at Monday's council meeting that city officials have been unfair to other developers in their pursuit of a hotel. DeWitt, who said she would have voted against the project, angrily left council chambers just before the vote was taken. (Mayor Kay Calas abstained from voting because she owns property nearby.)
"I'm concerned about the process, that all developers were not given the same consideration . . . that there has been inconsistency," DeWitt said.
Other council members disputed her claims. In September, the city solicited hotel proposals and in October narrowed the bids to two--the proposal by Gestec and another by Los Angeles-based Wolff, Sesnon, Buttery. City staff recommended the Gestec proposal because it offered the best financial arrangement and mixed land-use plan, said Community Development Director Patricia Nemeth.