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Cormorant hotel aims for fall opening in La Jolla

The Cormorant Boutique Hotel is in development at 1110 Prospect St. in La Jolla.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

You wouldn’t quite know it from looking at the exterior, but in coming months, the former La Jolla Inn will become the Cormorant Boutique Hotel.

The hotel at 1110 Prospect St. has been under construction for the better part of two years, but management said it hopes for a fall opening.

Oceanic Enterprises LLC marketing manager Priscila Damasceno said “we’re hoping to open it in October,” though more information will be available in coming weeks and months.

The new hotel will be more modern than its predecessor, with an art deco-inspired aesthetic, larger rooms and suites, a larger lobby and a rooftop dining area.

“It’s a small boutique hotel,” said Paul Benton, the architect for the project. “The original rooms [at the La Jolla Inn] were quite small, but the owners found a lot of the guests, especially longer-stay guests, would spend a lot of time on the roof and the lobby talking to people they had never met. It became like a hostel. Guests were meeting and started to recognize one another, and the owners wanted to promote that for longer stays.”

The bathrooms will be enlarged and a new air conditioning system installed and wheelchair access improved “more so than what was required” because the intent is to make the hotel “more generous and inviting,” Benton said.

Rebecca Kenny, principal and design director for Greenwood & Black Interior Architectural Design, said the intent in designing the Cormorant was to bring a midcentury modern aesthetic.

“That was the overall driver,” she said. “We reimagined the exterior, whitewashed the brick, added black iron balconies that are really decorative and added a living wall [a wall to house plants] to the interior courtyard.”

She said every room will have an ocean view and that some rooms were converted into suites.

“That great view just begs for a balcony off each [room],” she said. “That’s the experience of it we want to create, opening those doors and having that ocean right there. We want to bring excitement to Prospect Street with all these five-star finishes, things you see out of the corner of your eye and say ‘Wow.’ We’re really proud of it; we think it will be a good fit for La Jolla.”

The marketplace that was on the corner will reopen when the hotel does.

Norma Kay said her nearby business has been “directly affected” by the renovation.

“If you look at it, or look inside, all you see is trash,” Kay said. “In the beginning, I told them they were in one of the most important corners of La Jolla and I wanted them to not just board it up and create an eyesore. People don’t like going under the scaffolding, which has been there since Day 1. It looks scary.

“So my business is directly affected by it because we are taking all the dust and all the noise from construction, and the portable toilets are right near our door, which is a very smelly experience. I would just like them to get it done and open the hotel before we go out of business.”

Benton said two major delays have been in the permitting for lifts for wheelchair access and a last-minute change to the air conditioning system the hotel plans to use.

“The [California Division of Occupational Safety and Health] regulates elevators and lifts, and in order to get one to the upper floor, we had to get a variance for the height of the lift and meet other conditions,” he said. “The lift we wanted to use is relatively small, smaller than an elevator, and the state says there can only be 12 feet of travel [but we needed more], and it took us over a year to get to a hearing to get that variance.”

The other delay was fitting in new air conditioning technology.

“We had to use new technology with heat pumps and exchange lines that was just available the year we started, so one of the decisions was to switch to that system,” Benton said.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a small delay in construction management and making sure workers were proceeding safely. ◆