|By Jim McLain, Ventura County Star, Calif.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 17, 2005 - New investors are putting up the capital to complete a much-delayed renovation and upgrade project at the Holiday Inn Ventura Beach Resort hotel in Ventura.
A San Francisco-based development firm, HCV Pacific Partners LLC, bought an undisclosed percentage of the high-rise hotel in April and is moving to complete an $8 million remodel of what will become a Crowne Plaza Hotels brand, Douglas Wood, the hotel's new general manager, said Tuesday.
The project, started and stopped several times since it was announced in 2003, should be mostly complete by late October, he said.
HCV Pacific Partners and Kansas-based Ventura Hotel Corp. and Linquist & Craig Hotels & Resorts Inc., which have owned the hotel since it was built in the early 1970s, are operating it jointly, Wood said.
The price the new investors paid was not disclosed. The two firms formed Ventura Beach Ventures LLC to be the hotel's operating company and hired Providence Hospitality Partners of Denver to manage it. Providence hired Wood to be general manager in July.
Nearly all of the hotel's 258 rooms have been upgraded extensively, and its Top of the Harbor, a former restaurant on the 12th floor, has been converted into meeting facilities that can accommodate up to 500, Wood said.
Work to convert the ground-floor cafe into a full-service restaurant should begin in a few weeks, as will construction of a 24-hour business center and a fitness facility. The lobby is to be extensively renovated and will include a new bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, offering unobstructed ocean views. Exactly when the property will become a Crowne Plaza should be determined in about two weeks, Wood said.
Most of the construction should be finished this fall, but some ground-floor meeting facilities and the lobby bar probably will be delayed until the spring so the work doesn't disturb large conferences scheduled from January to March.
Zoe Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Ventura Chamber of Commerce, said she had been told about the ownership change, but had not met any of the principals and did not know details of their plans. She called the 12-story hotel, opened in 1972, a vital component of Ventura's tourism industry.
"It is the one property that everybody recognizes as they go through the community," said Taylor. "If you don't know of any of the other hotels, you certainly can see that one on the freeway from both directions." At a workshop in which they outlined their plans and sought suggestions from city officials and business people, HCV Pacific Partners officials said they are prepared to fully upgrade the property and hope to turn it into a destination resort. A tourism industry leader who attended the presentation said he was impressed.
"The way it was described, it sounds like exactly what that property has always needed to really open it up and engage its view potential," said Jim Lutt-johann, executive director of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau. "The change seems really real this time. Everybody that I have met is just so positive about the change and the community. The indications are strong just based on what they're doing. They're staffing up and they're hiring really qualified people." Wood, previously with Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts in San Jose, has 18 years' experience in hotel management, according to a press release.
The Holiday Inn has 112 employees, but that number will be increased and everyone on the staff will be required to complete an extensive Crowne Plaza training program before the hotel is renamed the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach Hotel, Wood said.
The press release describes Crowne Plaza as an upscale brand of the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which also operates the Intercontinental Hotels, Holiday Inns and Holiday Inn Express chains.
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