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Ventura County

4 Local Hotels Polishing Image With Upgrades

Renovations: Make-overs are being done with the hopes of attracting more convention business and high-end visitors.

January 22, 2002|KEVIN F. SHERRY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In an effort to draw visitors and project a more upscale image, four of Ventura's larger hotels are undergoing major renovations, upgrades or changes of affiliation.

The Pierpont Inn and the Four Points Sheraton have begun remodeling and renovating their properties, while the Holiday Inn expects to begin a $5-million conversion to a Crowne Plaza in the fall and the Clarion Hotel will convert to a full-service Marriott late this year or early in 2003.

Hoteliers say they hope the improvements lure visitors to Ventura instead of competing resort destinations and increase midweek business.

Since Spencer Garrett bought the Pierpont Inn three years ago, the property has been re-roofed, repainted and reinforced with dual-pane windows.

Each of the 76 rooms was redone, with renovations to the Sanjon Road property totaling more than $7.5 million.

"I don't think that there's ever an end," said Garrett, the Pierpont's managing partner.

Plans call for the restaurant to be remodeled to include an entertainment lounge and for a 1950s beach cottage to be restored.

Early next year, the upstairs portion of the property, which dates from 1910, will be converted from office space into six guest rooms.

The hotel also hopes to get onto the National Registry of Historic Places, Garrett said.

"We really are playing upon our historic roots," he said.

The investment appears to be paying off, with more guests and community recognition.

"We're starting to see the fruits of all our restoration efforts," he said.

"It's a necessary investment.... We are trying to create a destination resort."

The conversion of the Holiday Inn will represent a bump up in hotel quality, said Jim Bennett, the hotel's general manager.

The outside of the oceanfront property will get a new facade, and the flat roof will become a mansard roof.

The balconies will be reconfigured, and some will be enclosed.

Each of the 260 rooms will receive furniture and linen upgrades. Several bars and eateries will be added, and the penthouse Breakers restaurant, which will offer an outdoor dining area, will be updated.

Conversion of the building, which has been a Holiday Inn for nearly 30 years, will take about six months, Bennett said.

Next to Ventura Harbor, the Four Points Sheraton has been tackling renovation and upgrade projects for several years, said Paula Saunders, the hotel's director of sales and marketing.

"It's a continual renovation. We have done all of the guest rooms twice in eight years," she said.

Alexander's restaurant will move from the marina wing of the hotel to the Harborview meeting room and will have an outdoor patio and a private dining room adjacent to the main lobby.

"It makes sense that we keep things as close as possible," Saunders said. The old restaurant will become meeting space and suites with whirlpool baths.

The restaurant will be moved by the end of April, and the additional suites should be ready by the end of the summer, she said.

The main lobby soon will have a bar for continental breakfasts and light lunches. Work there should be completed by the end of the month.

The hotel is adding 26 suites, for a total of 177.

"We needed more guest rooms," Saunders said. "We max out a good deal of the time."

Throughout 2002, the 283-bed Clarion Hotel on Harbor Boulevard will undergo extensive renovations, Marriott spokesman Matthew Carroll said.

"Once the renovations are complete, it'll be reflagged as a Marriott hotel," he said.

Ventura has about 30 hotels with a total of 2,000 rooms, said Kathy Janega-Dykes, executive director of the Ventura Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"The improved [hotels] will certainly encourage people to stay longer and return more frequently to Ventura," she said.

"Ventura is a destination that appeals to a variety of different ages and interest levels," Janega-Dykes said. "What's appealing about Ventura is the diversity of lodging options here. There's something for everyone."

Ventura can offer less expensive rooms at motels and provide both lodging for higher-end vacationers and space for convention-goers, she said.

Saunders also hopes the upgrades will encourage more midweek conventions.

"We can't think that this is just a transient weekend business," she said.

The money that top hotel owners have put into their properties mirrors what the city has spent to revitalize the downtown area, said Garrett of the Pierpont.

"The operators in town recognize that Ventura is an increasingly attractive location for people to come and visit both for leisure and for business meetings," Garrett said.

"As they make significant improvements, that'll attract more people, and that'll make us more competitive with places like Santa Barbara and Ojai."

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