Point Loma’s new Monsaraz Hotel has won an international award for its design, which is meant to reflect the Portuguese heritage of its neighborhood.
Finished in 2021, the hotel just won a LIV Hospitality Design Award from the prestigious design organization based in Zurich.
The LIV awards recognize excellence in hospitality architecture, interior design and guest experiences on a global scale.
The Monsaraz was built by Alliance Development Services, based in Carlsbad, in partnership with Lamming Co., which is headquartered in Point Loma.
Interior designs came from Los Angeles-based KNA Design and exterior design by Joseph Wong Associates based in Bankers Hill.
“This is a really nice bit of recognition for us,” said Greg LaMarca, president of Alliance Development.
Inaugurated in 2020, the LIV award program chooses winners “based on their own merit – rewarding the most pioneering and ground-breaking designs and selecting those standing out, based on new concepts, innovations, sustainability initiatives and property design stories,” according to the LIV Hospital Design Awards website.
“At the LIV Hospitality Design Awards, we strive to support and promote inspired projects and innovation by professional and emerging designers from around the world,” said Astrid Hébert, a founder of the awards program. “Assembling in one platform outstanding properties from Brazil, Kenya to Portugal and Dubai. This program will continue to define the future of design excellence in the Hospitality industry.”
KNA Design Principal Kirk Nix said, “Recognition from our peers is indeed the highest compliment of all.”
The Monsaraz was built at the site of the former Dolphin Hotel, which was razed along with an adjacent palm reading shop and a billboard.
The 39-room Dolphin closed in 2017 after it was acquired by Alliance Development for $5.2 million.
The new 92-room Monsaraz cost about $30 million to build, LaMarca said.
The original plan was to build townhomes on the site, but LaMarca said that the plan was changed after he met with hospitality experts, including Cameron Lamming, president of Lamming Co.
“They basically told us that there is no (hotel) product in the area and a boutique hotel in that area would do very, very well,” LaMarca said.
After conferring with people who live near the hotel site, LaMarca said the decision was made to design the hotel to reflect the area’s Portuguese heritage.
Including an 8,000-square-foot courtyard, the Monsaraz is “a coastal modern design,” LaMarca said, with details throughout the hotel that are a nod to that heritage.
The hotel is even named after a Portuguese fishing village.
Nix and Lamming said touches of Portugal are blended throughout the hotel, from the blue and white color palette that dominates and the pattern in tile work to photographs and art work on display, nautical ropes used as accents, and wooden chandeliers made of old fishing traps in the lobby.
The Monsaraz is geared toward vacationing families, although LaMarca said it’s attracted a mix of guests.
“The old Dolphin used to get a lot of guys that went on sport fishing trips,” LaMarca said. “We get some of that but we’re a little more upscale from that.”
Lamming said he wanted the hotel to be “a place that the locals are proud to have there.”
“Most hotels don’t really care about the locals,” Lamming said, adding that the design reflects feedback from two years of meeting with people who live in the neighborhood.
That includes the restaurant, which Lamming said was “not just a place to grab a meal.”
“We wanted it to feel comfortable where people could go and hang out and have a drink and not feel we’re trying to turn tables,” Lamming said. “It should be a local restaurant that just happens to be attached to a hotel.”
The Monsaraz is branded as a Hilton Tapestry hotel, but LaMarca said “it doesn’t look like a Hilton, it doesn’t feel like a Hilton.”
A growing trend in the hotel industry is to build hotels that look pretty much the same from city to city.
“I wanted to do just the opposite, pull in the local flavor,” Lamming said.
The hotel industry was hard hit by the COVID pandemic, but Lamming said it is recovering, particularly in San Diego.
“San Diego is faring far better than some cities,” Lamming said. “Occupancy has not reached pre-pandemic levels but the average daily (room) rate has actually exceeded 2019 levels.”
The Monsaraz is “a long-term hold for us because we are so bullish on this area of the city. We plan on just being there as the tide rushes in again.”
CEO: Cameron Lamming
Headquarters: San Juan Capistrano
Business: Hotel development and acquisition
Notable: The company was formerly RAR Hospitality
Alliance Development Services
CEO: Greg LaMarca
Business: Infill development
Social impact: Alliance Development supports, The First Step House of North County, a free alcohol and drug detoxification center for men.
Notable: the company switched from building for-sale housing to building revenue producing projects – primarily apartments and townhomes.