By Kathy Day
There’s more movement on the local lodging scene with Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants taking over management of Hotel La Jolla, which sits at the gateway to La Jolla.
The hotel’s ownership picture also changed recently when an affiliate of Westport Capital Partners LLC and Cove Equity Group, an investment firm owned by La Jollan Ure Kretowicz, purchased the outstanding debt on the hotel, which had faced possible foreclosure. Westport also contributed capital to support room renovations that were in progress, according to Sean Armstrong, principal for Westport.
He would not discuss the financial considerations.
Kretowitcz, who also is CEO of Cornerstone Communities, has been involved with the hotel for about four years, and bought out the interest of the prior owners, he said, noting that he’s now a majority owner and minority lender.
Westport invests in a “wide variety of distressed and opportunistic real estate situations,” according to its website.
Kretowitcz and Armstrong both said they are excited about the prospects for Hotel La Jolla.
“Being in La Jolla, I know what an incredible jewel the hotel can be,” Kretowitcz said. Armstrong said Westport “is very excited about having the asset achieve it’s full potential.
Located on La Jolla Shores Drive next to Torrey Pines Road, the hotel has 108 rooms. The next phase of the remodeling project will see the restaurant — formerly Clay’s and recently renamed the Grill at Hotel La Jolla — moved from the 11th floor to street level where it will include outdoor seating.
Acknowledging that some might be upset at losing the great views afforded by the current restaurant spot, Kretowitcz said the tradeoff will be that the ground-floor area will gain from the energy of having the lobby, bar and restaurant on the same level.
The remodel — which they hope to complete by summer 2012 — will also play to the poolside location, giving the restaurant more of an indoor-outdoor feel. They are presently processing plans with the city.
When it’s done, he added, “it will be an alternative to the Village for the neighborhood” where people can walk over and grab a coffee or have Sunday breakfast.
Upgrades are also set for the reception, lobby and outdoor pool areas, to be completed in early 2012.
One of the reasons for bringing in San Francisco-based Kimpton is “because they do a splendid job with boutique hotels,” Kretowitcz said. “We don’t want to be a big chain.”
Kimpton is privately held and operates 52 hotels and 53 restaurants in 23 cities. It was founded 30 years ago and is known for introducing the boutique hotel concept in America. Kimpton also owns the Hotel Solamar near Petco Park and recently purchased downtown's Se San Diego Hotel, which was in bankruptcy at the time of the purchase.
A press release on the transaction states, “Upon completion of the remodel, Hotel La Jolla will offer all of the iconic Kimpton programs such as the hosted evening wine hour, “Forgot It? We’ve Got It!” list of travel essentials, animal print robes, Guppy Love (companion goldfish upon request), loyalty program perks and personalized preferences and more than 100 eco-friendly EarthCare operating practices.”
Hotel La Jolla was formerly operated by APMC, a San Diego- and Albuquerque-based hotel company.