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Irvine firm buys Bacara Resort near Santa Barbara

The 354-room site is the fourth luxury hotel purchased by Pacific Hospitality Group in the last 15 months as that sector makes a comeback from the recession.

February 27, 2013|By Roger Vincent
  • The new owner of Bacara Resort & Spa near Santa Barbara plans to spend more than $5 million on improvements, starting with refurbishments to guest rooms.
The new owner of Bacara Resort & Spa near Santa Barbara plans to spend… (Jim Bartsch, Bacara Resort…)

Plush Southern California seaside resorts suffered during the recent recession, but they are making a comeback as business and leisure travel picks up.

Now, Bacara Resort & Spa near Santa Barbara has been acquired by an Irvine hotel company that plans to upgrade the luxurious inn as well-heeled guests return to coastal resorts.

Pacific Hospitality Group bought Bacara from SB Luxury Resort, an affiliate of Ohana Real Estate Investors and Rockpoint Group, which have owned the property since 2011. The sale price was not disclosed, but real estate experts said the seller was asking for more than $150 million.

The 354-room hotel will continue to be known as Bacara, a name made up for the property that opened in 2000. It will be operated by Pacific Hospitality, which also acquired Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa in San Diego, Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach and the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, Calif., during the last 15 months.

"We see this as a really dynamic hotel environment, which we have been lucky enough to take advantage of because we are an owner-operator," said Kory Kramer, chief investment officer.

Pacific Hospitality will spend more than $5 million on improvements, he said, starting with refurbishments to guest rooms. The company's strategy also calls for booking more conferences and meetings on weekdays.

"Our goal is to double that business," Kramer said.

The hotel industry lost a lot of customers during the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, said consultant Alan Reay of Atlas Hospitality Group. "Resorts suffered the largest drop in revenue of all hotel segments."

Now the trend is reversing as companies book more out-of-town retreats and leisure travelers open their wallets again for top-drawer destinations, Reay said.

New boutique hotel kicks off Redondo Beach makeover

As Redondo Beach sets out to revitalize its waterfront and make it into a regional recreation attraction, work is set to begin this week on a new boutique hotel on the edge of King Harbor.

The first order of business starting Thursday is to raze the former Red Onion restaurant building on North Harbor Drive. The Red Onion was once a hot spot for live music but also known for its rowdy clientele. It closed more than a decade ago.

The city purchased the property in 2001 and leased it to other restaurants, but none of them clicked, developer Michael Zislis said.

"The city finally realized that you can't put lipstick on this pig anymore and it's time for a new building," he said.

Zislis, a Manhattan Beach restaurateur and hotelier, won approval from the city to build the 54-room Shade Hotel Redondo Beach on the site. The hotel will cost about $21 million to build, he said, starting with the expensive requirement of driving 200 support pilings 50 feet deep into the shoreline.

"I'm going to bury a million dollars in the dirt," he quipped.

Timber from the 1960s-era Red Onion building will be salvaged to make bed frames, desks and other furniture for the eco-friendly Shade Hotel, he said. It will also generate its hot water from solar panels.

Zislis operates the Shade Hotel Manhattan Beach, and his restaurants include Rock & Brews in El Segundo and Rock 'n Fish eateries in Manhattan Beach, Laguna Beach and downtown Los Angeles.

The city of Redondo Beach has acquired 15 acres of land on the waterfront in an effort to improve it, real estate consultant Larry Kosmont said.

"It's been fairly tired for years," he said. "It needs refreshing and investment. The plan is to design a locally sensitive regional attraction."

El Segundo retail real estate developer CenterCal Properties was selected by the city in December to make that happen. Preliminary plans call for restaurants, shops, a hotel, water features including a saltwater swimming pool and a small movie theater.

The City Council will vote on CenterCal's waterfront plan in March. The project will be a joint venture of CenterCal and the California State Teachers' Retirement System.

The new Shade Hotel is slated to open in early 2015. Rooms are expected to cost about $195 a night on weekdays and $250 on weekends, Zislis said.

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