|By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Nov. 01, 2011--SANTA CRUZ -- The University Inn and Conference Center, which closed at the end of August, has a new owner.
BPR Properties of Palo Alto bought the hotel at 611 Ocean St. for an undisclosed price. The seller, an affiliate of Seagate Properties Inc. of San Rafael, announced the sale Monday.
The 172-room hotel, the largest in the city, had operated as off-campus housing for UC Santa Cruz for 10 years until the university's lease expired. The property was vacant Monday, with signs in the parking lot saying "No vacancy" and "Lobby closed."
David Issel, vice president of operations for BPR Properties, said plans are to remodel the hotel and reopen in May "as an independent boutique hotel."
He added, "We're excited about the opportunity."
Mayor Ryan Coonerty said he's looking forward to having the site operate as a full-time hotel again.
"That location has tremendous potential because of its proximity to downtown and the beach," he said.
According to Seagate Properties, UCSC was precluded from renewing the lease as part of a legal settlement with the city of Santa Cruz over campus expansion.
"When the university was prohibited from renewing its lease, the nature of this real estate investment changed from housing with redevelopment opportunities to purely a hotel business," said Mark Polite of Seagate Properties. "Hotels are outside the scope of our expertise, and we are pleased that BPR Properties will be able to
better serve the needs of the Santa Cruz hospitality market."
Seagate Properties, a part of Commonfund Realty Investors in Wilton, Conn., bought the property from Ramesh Bhojwani in 2005 for $20.9 million, then encountered financial difficulties, owing $13.3 million on a $14 million loan from Bank of America due this year.
The deal gives BPR Properties three hotels on the street that serves as the gateway to the beach in Santa Cruz. The company owns the 77-room Best Western All Suites at 500 Ocean St. and two years ago opened the 100-room Holiday Inn Express at 1410 Ocean St.
"We had a great summer exceeding financial and guest satisfaction expectations," said Holiday Inn Express general manager Angelica Rivera, noting the hotel attracted directors and actors involved in the Pacific Rim Film Festival. "We are all enjoying this gorgeous Indian summer."
Representatives of the local business community welcomed news of BPR Properties' investment.
"They're invested in the region," said Maggie Ivy, who heads the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitor Council. "We've been really happy with the Holiday Inn Express. We're excited to see what they will do."
She pointed out that the University Inn is not only the largest hotel in the city, it also has 5,000 square feet of conference space -- more than the Dream Inn -- and proximity to downtown.
"This is one of Santa Cruz's premier visitor-serving opportunity sites," said Bill Tysseling, executive director of Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, commending BPR Properties " best-of-class operating philosophy" and commitment to the community .
During the summer, the city reviewed a plan for the future of Ocean Street and agreed to offer $100,000 each in reimbursements to three Ocean Street motels more than 10 years old for facade improvement. Other motel owners are making improvements on their own.
The Aspromonte family built an 84-room Fairfield Inn and Suites on 41st Avenue in Capitola, which opened in July.
Scott Pinheiro and Chris Ferrante, along with Jim and Lisa Reilly, invested in a $700,000 remodel this year for the Beach Street Inn and Suites, across from the Boardwalk, and plans to upgrade more rooms before next season.
Lou Bartfield, owner of the Rio Sands in Aptos, completed a $1.5 million renovation this year. The Rio Sands will show off the remodel, hosting a chamber mixer at 5 p.m. Nov. 15.
(c)2011 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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