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 Design Goals for New 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Convention Center
Hotel Was to Create a Hotel that Would Become a True Urban Resort

ATLANTA, Ga., February 21, 2006 – John Portman & Associates, Inc. (Portman) today unveiled details of its innovative design for a unique urban resort--the new 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Convention Center Hotel that has just broken ground.  Officials believe it will be one of the largest hotels to begin construction in the U.S. in 2006, with a construction budget of $230 million and innovative design that creates a resort atmosphere in the center of a major city.

Advantageously located at the intersection of Harbor Drive and Park Boulevard (formerly Eighth Avenue) on the San Diego Bay, adjacent to the San Diego Convention Center and across from Petco Park, the 30-story hotel’s design also features upscale retail shops and four food and beverage outlets, including a spectacular waterfront restaurant. Other amenities include a business center, meeting and conference facilities, ballrooms and a health club/spa.

Walt Miller, vice president for John Portman & Associates, noted that the hotel promises a memorable experience unique to San Diego. “From the very beginning of the design process, our goal was to create a hotel that would become a true urban resort, taking full advantage of the outstanding views,” he said.

Special attention was devoted to the hotel’s entrance and “sense of place.”  The entrance is elevated, literally and figuratively, heightening the arrival experience and giving the main lobby and meeting areas amazing panoramas of the bay, the surrounding 4.3-acre public park, the city skyline, landmark Padres ballpark and historic Gaslamp Quarter.  Raising the guest disembarkation area one floor above the street level, also discreetly directs traffic away from the adjacent park and allows the ground-level restaurant and retail outlets situated underneath the hotel lobby to provide pedestrian access to the waterfront.  Through the unique stacking of public functions, the design makes the most of the scenic area by stepping back the major ballroom levels to create open landscaped terraces overlooking the water.  Even something as mundane as providing egress from the ballrooms is handled in an artful, experiential way by enlivening the design with corkscrew staircases that are open to the waterfront. 

In addition to the waterfront views, the 10.2-acre site will showcase a new 4.3-acre landscaped public park. Portman has retained landscape architects Sasaki Associates for the design of the park.  The park will be enhanced with more than $2 million of public works of art, and will be the termination point of the Balboa Park Corridor that links Balboa Park to the San Diego Bay.  Adding to the resort-like atmosphere, a broad public promenade will connect the hotel development with the waterfront and the rest of South Embarcadero, providing open space for informal gatherings and special events.

Portman is well-known for the revitalization of urban centers, but this project also incorporates the characteristics of an urban resort.  Miller explained, “Except, perhaps, for a rooftop restaurant or lounge, the urban hotel is typically focused inward on the interior experience. 

This hotel is unique in that, although it is on a decidedly urban site, the setting along the bay and the climate of San Diego permit us to make the most of a variety of exciting exterior spaces and bring the delights of nature into the hotel experience.  There are few things that equal the impact of being along the water and drinking in the view.” 

The design allows a very large hotel to elegantly exist on an extremely compact site.  In keeping with the context and character of the area, the solid portions of the hotel tower and stacked ballrooms are similar in color and texture to the adjacent convention center.  The hotel tower façade rises to feature large areas of glass and terminates in a distinctive cutout top which provides an articulated transition to the sky.  Extensive greenery brings the lushness of the park onto the expansive terraces and balconies of the hotel.  John Portman & Associates is working with associate architects Joseph Wong Design Associates on the hotel.  The two firms also teamed on the corresponding 2,000-car parking structure previously built on the site to serve the hotel, convention center and ballpark. 

In late January, the Unified Port of San Diego and co-developers Portman Holdings and Phelps Development, as well as the hotel’s owners/operators Hilton Hotels Corporation and ING Clarion Partners, held the official ground-breaking. Construction by Hensel Phelps Construction is scheduled for completion in late 2008.

About John Portman & Associates, Inc. 
Established in 1953, John Portman & Associates, Inc. is an internationally recognized architectural and engineering firm with offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Shanghai, China. 


Emily Ann Munnell
John Portman & Associates, Inc.
 Phone: 404-614-5040

Also See: Portman Holdings and Phelps Development, Co-developers of the 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Convention Center, Set to Start Construction; $348 million Project Completely Financed with Private Capital / January 2006
Joint Venture Partners Hilton Hotels Corporation and ING Clarion Partners Hold Groundbreaking for the 1,190 room Hilton San Diego Convention Center / February 2006

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