|By Bob Shallit, The Sacramento Bee,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 10, 2007 - Developer Bob Leach has patiently waited more than a decade to build a hotel on the Sacramento River.
Now, with the $32 million project nearing completion, he's seeing an upside to years of frustrating delays caused by neighborhood opposition and environmental hurdles.
"The thing is, this was a good idea 13 years ago," he says, while giving a tour of his 101-room Le Rivage hotel and the adjoining Scott's Seafood Grill and Bar, both of which will open in early January. "Now it's a great idea."
In other words, Sacramento has matured and the former site of the long-gone Captain's Table restaurant is now ready for what Leach describes as a "first-class hotel with an Italian and French Riviera" flavor.
Riviera on the river? Sure, says Leach. The polished marble flooring is from Italy. So are the guest robes and high-end linens. The stone archway at the entrance is "our little piazza," with Italian pavers underfoot.
As Leach envisions it, guests will stand on their private balconies, "with a glass of vino and listen to Italian opera" coming from performers at the hotel's riverside amphitheater.
"You get the drift," he says.
Leach says he decided a year ago to upgrade the project from upscale to luxury. ("The market had evolved to the point where that was the one area not covered," he says.)
In this case, luxury means $250- to- $575- a-night rooms and suites, with amenities like claw-foot soaking tubs or Jacuzzis, fireplaces, treadmills and 42-inch flat-screen TVs. The Lt. Governor's Suite has a billiards table; the Governor's Suite features a large handcrafted conference table (imported from Italy, natch), along with separate living quarters.
But the project's key selling point is its connection with the river.
Leach's team is nearing completion of a 25-berth marina for yacht-owning guests and other boaters. Besides the amphitheater for concerts and outdoor weddings, the riverfront hotel will offer bocce courts, bike and jet-ski rentals, as well as water taxi service to ferry guests up the river.
There are even plans for a seaplane for day trips to Tahoe or the Napa wine country.
"It will be gorgeous," Leach says of the waterfront vista and views of the Sacramento skyline. "People will come here and say, 'Why didn't we do this 25 years ago?'"
Bottom line: Turning Le Rivage into a luxury hotel meant a significant hike in construction costs. Originally slated for $15 million, the project grew to its current $32 million budget, Leach says, not counting the $2 million that Scott's owners spent on their restaurant and 200-seat banquet room.
Given that investment, what occupancy rate will be required to break even after the hotel opens Jan. 12?
Somewhere around 65 percent, Leach says.
"But you have to remember, we only have 101 rooms," he says. "If we can't get 65 people in here, they ought to take us out and shoot us."
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