New & Renovated Properties Boost Meetings
Over the years, planners’ responsibilities have evolved way beyond logistics and the high expectations/low budget dance. They have grown to include concerns such as return-on-investment and heightened security, for instance.
Planners must now also consider the needs for advanced technology, healthy (yet tasty) food and beverage, intimate and unique meeting spaces, enhanced sustainability and hyper-local experiences that give attendees a personal perspective of the destination, not to mention an opportunity for personal growth. Oh, yes, and did we mention new and newly renovated meeting spaces and hotels to engage return attendees and create the incentive buzz?
It’s a big job. But, fortunately, the Greater San Francisco Bay Area’s hospitality and meetings scene is up for the challenge. An array of newly opened and transformed properties, including the long-anticipated opening of Moscone Center’s expansion, is turning some of the hottest areas from the South Bay to the North Bay into meeting-ready destinations.
Here are some of the highlights of today’s market and a short list to keep on your radar.
Last year, the city experienced a mini-boom in hotel development and openings. This surge is feeding into an industry that is promising a busy 2019, with 1.1 million convention room nights already on the books, according to Brett Allor, senior director of market strategy and research for San Francisco Travel. It also reflects the vibrancy and energy of the Mid-Market, South of Market (SoMa) and South Beach areas, where a seemingly endless array of new restaurants, cocktail lounges and bars foster the sense of something going on 24/7, just outside the hotel’s front door.
One such property is Hotel Via, directly across the street from AT&T Park. This tech-centric new build in South Beach has one of the most robust wireless networks in the city, which allows guests to connect to the internet anytime, anywhere on the property, using an unlimited number of devices without compromising the network’s speed. The hotel encompasses 159 guest rooms, several meeting spaces, and a 3,000-square-foot rooftop bar with 360-degree views that can be sectioned off and reserved for groups; it’s also available for full buyouts. Noted chef Leo Batoyon serves seasonally inspired small plates in the bar and provides catering for the rooftop venue.
A hot Mid-Market example: San Francisco Proper Hotel, housed in a historic flatiron building, offers 131 original guest rooms in a variety of configurations. The meeting spaces, ideal for small groups, are equally varied, from a private 14-person dining room off the restaurant and two meeting rooms (boardroom for 14, meetings for up to 75), to an indoor/ outdoor rooftop terrace that can accommodate standing receptions for 250 guests. Its “gymnasium” is outfitted with treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical cross-trainers, rubber-coated Kettlebells, incline/ decline benches, resistance tubing and stability balls.
Offering an interesting new concept in the business, Yotel, located in the restored Grant Building in Mid-Market, is taking reservations beginning July 1. The tech-rich hotel features 203 “cabins” (read streamlined guest rooms), communal socializing spaces for impromptu get-togethers, a 3,700-square-foot rooftop terrace and bar, and food and beverage by Alta Group’s Michelin-starred chef Daniel Patterson.
Virgin Hotels San Francisco, which will open this summer, will bring Sir Richard Branson’s hotel vision to the Moscone Center nexus. (If you’ve visited the flagship in Chicago, you get the picture.) Built from the ground up, it has 194 rooms and 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. In addition to the daily complimentary social hour inside Commons Club, which planners and guests love, the fitness center features internet-equipped Technogym cardio machines. A rooftop lounge is part of the plan.
This October is the target opening date for Hyatt Place San Francisco, located near the ballpark on Third Street. The 228-room, LEED Platinum hotel will feature vegetated roofs, a public courtyard and roof decks.
Not all new properties are in the Mid-Market, SoMa and South Beach areas, however. Lodge at the Presidio, a historic boutique hotel, opens this summer in the popular national park near the Golden Gate Bridge. On its doorstep is a 7-acre green lawn that often hosts community events, and a nearby 24-mile trail network that connects attendees with beaches, nature sites, museums and restaurants. While the 42-room lodge will have no designated meeting space, its sister property, Inn at the Presidio, has two 425-square-foot meeting rooms that can accommodate 20 attendees each, and the Presidio itself offers several venues. A shuttle connects guests to downtown San Francisco.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has received its due, as well. One of Marriott’s designdriven AC brand hotels, AC Hotel San Francisco Airport/Oyster Point Waterfront, opened recently in South San Francisco, about 10 minutes from the terminals. The hotel, which has waterfront views, features 180 guest rooms and 8,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space. Amenities include cardiovascular equipment in the fitness center and an indoor soaking pool.
Renovations are also driving the thriving market. Among the city’s notable renovated properties is Hotel Nikko San Francisco, a Union Square luxury hotel that recently reopened after a $60 million renovation that included 405 guest rooms and suites, the third-floor ballroom and prefunction space, and upgrades to the technology infrastructure. Its indoor pool, with a glass atrium and adjoining outdoor terraces, is available for private events (there’s even a doggie run on the terrace). The hotel’s contemporary, Californiainspired Japanese restaurant, Anzu, Club Nikko fitness center and Feinstein’s at the Nikko, a 140-seat theater, are open, as well.
Future openings hold a great deal of promise for planners, especially properties with long lead times. Here is a preview of what’s to come.
Moscone Center: According to Brett Allor, senior director of market strategy and research for San Francisco Travel, the long-anticipated opening of the center’s $500 million expansion will take place in late November, with the formal opening sometime in January. Highlights of the expansion include contiguous space that increases from 256,225 to 509,000 sq. ft., a new 50,000-square-foot, column-free ballroom, an enclosed bridge between buildings for direct access and multiple outdoor terraces designed for receptions and city views.
After a long delay, Marriott San Francisco SoMa has an anticipated opening date of January 2019. Located on the southern side of Mission Bay, the hotel will have 250 guest rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Right on target for a July 2019 opening is Grand Hyatt Airport, a 351-room luxury hotel located on SFO grounds. The property will offer 15,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, an extensive fitness center and direct access to the AirTrain light-rail system. It’s expected to receive LEED Gold certification.
Chase Center, a multipurpose arena in the Mission Bay neighborhood—and the future home court of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors—is set to open before the 2019– 2020 season. The arena will have a seating capacity of 18,000.
The $4.5 billion Transbay Transit Center at the intersection of First and Mission Streets, is slated to open in summer 2018. It’s spurring development of a new Transbay neighborhood where two major luxury hotels are set to open in 2021.
Langham Place: Rather than a traditional Langham luxury property (such as The Langham Huntington, Pasadena), this hotel is part of Langham Hotels & Resorts’ more forward-looking, modern luxury brand. It will include 205 guest rooms.
Waldorf Astoria San Francisco: With a projected opening in October 2021, this hotel will reside within the first 21 floors of a mixed-use tower that will also encompass entertainment, retail and offices. Plans are to have 171 guest rooms, personal concierges, a signature Peacock Alley restaurant and an expansive spa.
San Jose McEnery Convention Center is just a couple of years in from its last major overhaul, which added 125,000 sq. ft. of additional ballroom and meeting space, for a total of 520,000 sq. ft. of useable space. A more recent renovation brought major upgrades to lighting capabilities and audiovisual infrastructure in the exhibit halls.
New on the hotel front is the sleek, Euro-inspired AC Hotel San Jose Downtown, with 204 guest rooms and 3,420 sq. ft. of event space. It features an outdoor courtyard for casual events and an outdoor saltwater pool for lap swimmers.
Renovated properties include DoubleTree by Hilton San Jose, which recently concluded a $5.7 million revitalization of its 48,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space. The project encompassed design upgrades and added brand-new rigging capability in the 10,000-square-foot Gateway Ballroom, allowing more customization and enhanced audiovisual offerings. The 505-room hotel is located less than one mile from San Jose International Airport (SJC).
Minutes from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), in Half Moon Bay, Oceano Hotel & Spa offers rustic elegance with views to the Pacific. This coastal retreat recently added The Gate House, 3,000 sq. ft. of sun-drenched meeting space framed by hardwood floors, wood beams and French doors leading out onto a patio, fireplace and garden.
The city of Oakland is humming with the addition of tech companies such as Uber and Pandora, a diverse art scene and a food revolution that may rival San Francisco. Berkeley’s identity is intimately tied to the University of California, Berkeley campus and legendary Telegraph Avenue, both of which are always buzzing with energy—but exciting attractions, restaurants, activities and more can be found throughout the city.
Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont Hotel, situated on the Oakland/Berkeley border, is still fresh from a recent renovation when the 100-year-old landmark joined the Fairmont brand in 2015. it offers 276 guest rooms and more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
As you might expect, the resort has an expansive spa devoted to holistic health, with 32 treatment rooms, a dry sauna, steam rooms, saline whirlpools and deluge showers, among other amenities. The Club at the Claremont, a private club on the premises, has a 10,000-square-foot fitness center, daily fitness classes, tennis courts and three swimming pools.
Planners wanting to arrange a group visit and seeking more information about the cities can contact Visit Berkeley and Visit Oakland.
Napa Valley has seen an abundance of new and renovated hotels over the past few years. Opened last fall was Archer Hotel Napa, a luxury boutique property on First Street, in downtown Napa. Surrounded by 40 restaurants, shops and walkable wine-tasting rooms, it has 183 guest rooms and more than 17,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Opening soon is a rooftop fitness studio with Matrix cardio, free weights and a deck ideal for yoga practice; Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar, a full-service bar and restaurant, opened last month. Celebrated chef Charlie Parker oversees the hotel’s restaurant, Charlie Parker Steak, and its other food and beverage experiences.
Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley in St. Helena, a 68-room hotel, occupies a Georgian-style farmhouse and an adjacent building that front Beringer vineyards. Its restaurant, Acacia House by Chris Consentino, offers notable, sustainable fare. Meeting space includes 2,200 sq. ft. in the Acacia Barn. Beringer Estate Winery next door offers several indoor and outdoor unique spaces for up to 120 guests. Its spa includes not only a 24-hour fitness center, but also a dedicated yoga and meditation studio that overlooks a small creek.
Trendy Petaluma in Sonoma County plays host to Hotel Petaluma, a historic boutique hotel in the midst of the city’s strollable downtown hub. It features more than 90 guest rooms and two remodeled event spaces (an 1,900-square-foot ballroom and a 950-square-foot boardroom) that retain their authentic style and architectural design. Onsite are Barber Cellars wine-tasting room and The Shuckery (yep, local oysters) restaurant.
San Francisco’s flourishing new hotel scene is also a product of the area’s continuing appeal as a meetings destination. Over the years, Robert DeLuca, senior vice president and team director for ConferenceDirect in Chicago, has chosen the city for a wide range of meetings—from association annual meetings to corporate product launches—with events in the works there through 2020. Among its many advantages for meetings, he notes, are the city’s quality hotels and convention facilities, ample meeting space, firstclass tourist attractions and award-winning service culture. “Without a doubt, convention service standards are some of the highest in the country,” he says.
Meeting with a View
Christina L. Howell, event marketing manager with IBM Research in San Jose, recently brought a dozen people to Hotel VIA’s PH7, a trilevel penthouse in a building adjacent to the hotel, for a training meeting. She complimented the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows and the service. “This was a different experience for our group from the typical corporate meeting space—it was much more high-end, but also very comfortable,” she says. A highlight was spending some time on the rooftop lounge, with views of the Bay Bridge.