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US Grant Hotel Aiming for Five-Star Rating Once New Pool Is Installed

Going once, going twice …

The tab for renovation of the US Grant Hotel, originally published at $52 million, then $54 million, now stands at $56 million, counting the recent completion of the twin, upper-story presidential and penthouse suites.

Plans call for the addition of a swimming pool and full-service spa.

From now on, however, any additional funds spent on improvements would come under the heading “capital projects,” said Mark Dibella, director of sales and marketing.

The 270-room hotel, owned by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, is managed by Starwood Hotels as part of its Starwood Luxury Collection. The property has earned 4-Star and 4-Diamond ratings by Mobil Travel Guide and AAA, respectively. While there are a variety of ratings services, Mobil and AAA are the most respected in the lodging industry.

“Usually you’re not rated until you’ve been open a year, so we’re happy we got it sooner than later,” Dibella said. The circa-1910 Grant reopened in November after it closed for renovation about a year earlier.

With the addition of a pool and spa, which Dibella said could go under construction late this year or in 2008, the property would be eligible for a 5-Star rating.

The county boasts 5-Diamond hotels, but none has earned 5 stars.

One of two of the hotel’s original saltwater pools, a two-lane lap pool, still remains intact in a subterranean level parallel to Broadway at the front of the building.

It has long been empty and is boarded over.

But according to historical accounts, the pipes used to supply salt water to the pools also provided smuggling arteries for Mexican booze during the Prohibition era.

The lap pool once received natural sunlight through glass blocks in the original exterior sidewalk. Some consideration has been given to restoring it, yet Dibella said it’s questionable whether the lower-level enclosure could be adequately ventilated. A more suitable setting for a pool would likely be in 16,000 square feet of retail space along C Street that’s currently unoccupied.

Last week, music icon Stevie Nicks, who was playing at the Coors Amphitheatre, and pop diva Christina Aguilera, who was in concert at the Civic Theatre, checked into the two presidential suites.

“We’re the sexiest hotel in town,” Dibella boasted.

Maybe the two stars will run into each other on the suites’ adjoining balcony that overlooks the hotel’s courtyard.

The two 1,150-square-foot suites that have upper and lower levels occupy the ninth and 10th stories.

The 1,100-square-foot penthouse is on the south side of the 11th floor. The suites feature silk wall-to-wall carpeting, $300-a-yard embroidered silk curtains, custom-designed furniture and original artwork.

Asked why the hotel has two presidential suites, instead of a presidential and a governor’s like most, Dibella said it’s because they mirror each other in size and design.

Got it. Then again, any hotel whose guest roster includes 13 U.S. presidents, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who broadcast from the 11th floor, which was added to accommodate a radio station in 1939, can have as many presidential suites as it wants.


Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via e-mail:

clewis@sdbj.com

. She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359.

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