Historic San Juan Hotel Rebounds, Joins Fairmont Collection

Faced with major renovations following the devastation caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017, El San Juan Hotel has rebounded in a big way with back-to-back renovations totaling more than $125 million, and now has joined the prestigious Fairmont Hotel & Resorts collection.

Renamed Fairmont El San Juan Hotel, it is set on Isla Verde Beach, close to Old San Juan, the downtown San Juan area andLuis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU).Its famous historic features—including magnificent crystal chandeliers, hand-carved mahogany ceilings, cabaret stages and a 300-year-old Banyan tree—have been retained.

“We are bringing back the late ‘50s Havana-style, when everyone dressed up elegantly,” Managing Director Martin Smith told Forbes, adding that in lobby bars bartenders don white tuxedos with black piping, while waitresses wear long flowing skirts with white blouses.

These touches blend seamlessly with modern spaces such as the 388 newly renovated guest rooms, suites and villas, and cutting-edge Well & Being Spa.

“You walk in and you see it—it’s already a Fairmont,” Andro Nodarse-Leon, a partner at Leon, Mayer & Co., told Robb Report. (Leon, Mayer & Co. is a Miami-based private equity firm that purchased the hotel in 2015.) “You have that sense that it’s an important place within the community and the city.”

The hotel also features four pools with swim-up bars and luxury cabanas, a pro-level tennis court, 11 food-and-beverage venues and water sports rentals for jet skis, banana boats and parasailing. It provides nearly 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the newly renovated 11,040-square-foot grand ballroom.

Designed by famous Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus, the resort first opened on February 1, 1958. Lapidus also created the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels in Miami Beach. By the 1960s, it had become a magnet not only for the island’s high society, but also the jet set, often hosting celebrities the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Nat King Cole, Eddie Fisher and Carol Channing. But as it passed through different owners and management companies over time, the hotel lost some of its luster.

A $60 million renovation in 2017 brought back some of the old glamour. But hurricanes Maria and Irma hit just two months after renovations were completed. Much of the property was under as much as four feet of water, and the widespread damage prompted a new $65 million renovation.

“I’m looking forward to 2020 being the first year with the hotel entirely complete, so that we can see all that come to life again,” Nodarse-Leon said.

Read more about Puerto Rico’s recovery from recent hurricanes and what groups can do to help in “After Disaster: When Hurricanes and Earthquakes Sink Caribbean Economies, Groups Become a Lifeline,” in the February issue of Smart Meetings.

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