The Barcelona, a 100-year-old Bankers Hill apartment hotel, has been refurbished to the tune of nearly $2 million by Sentre, a downtown San Diego real estate investment firm.
The goal was to make the apartment building look and feel much as it did when it opened in 1923, while adding a few modern touches that included turning a 15,000-square-foot basement storage room into a gym, community room, and coworking space, according to Doug Arthur, president and CEO of Sentre.
“We called it the 1923 lounge, obviously honoring the origins of the building,” Arthur said. “We thought we had a certain responsibility to kind of restore it back to its historic charm.”
The look Sentre was going for was what Arthur described as “almost Great Gatstby-ish.”
“It was about elevating the original intent of the building and modernizing it but modernizing it consistent with the original intent of the architect,” Arthur said. “We really touched every aspect of the building.”
A Designated Historical Site
Designed by Eugene M. Hoffman, the Barcelona was originally intended to be one of a larger, four-building complex taking up the entire block between Third and Fourth Avenues and Juniper and Kalmia Streets, according to Sentre. The rest of the complex was never built.
The building was originally constructed as a full-service apartment-hotel, with a solarium, ballroom, restaurant and golf course. City directories first listed it as the “Finest in the West.”
In 2001, the Barcelona was designated a historical site by the city Historical Resources Board for embodying the distinctive characteristics of the Spanish Colonial Revival/Spanish Eclectic architecture.
During the 1920s and 1930s, that style of architecture was popular in the Southwest.
Sentre bought the Barelona 10 years ago.
“We replaced the roof, we replaced some of the electrical, we modernized the elevator, we repaired and replaced balconies, we’ve installed a new heating system,” Arthur said.
‘Treasure Chest of Historical Artifacts’
In the latest renovation done, to mark the Bacelona’s centennial, the exterior was repainted gray and white with gold accents, and a blade sign was added to the building corner at Fourth Avenue and Juniper Street that Arthur said was close in its design to a sign that was originally on the building.
Dotted throughout the building are vintage photographs of San Diego. A lobby display has framed postcards from the 1930’s that were mailed to people who lived in the Barcelona at the time.
“It was kind of like finding a treasure chest of historic artifacts that we were able to preserve,” Arthur said. “It’s a little bit of a time capsule.”
The 90 apartments in the Barcelona are small, about 200 square feet to about 600 square feet, in a mix of studios, one bedroom and two-bedroom units, but Arthur said they’ve all been redone.
A refurbished sky deck of about 750 square feet offers what Arthur described as “some of the best kind of unparalleled views in all of San Diego,” with downtown skyline, the San Diego International Airport, San Diego Bay, North Island and Coronado within eyesight.
“We enlarged it and then kind of brought the finish level to a standard that we thought was consistent with the standard of the balance of the building,” Arthur said.
That included adding a barbecue area, new furniture, and a U-shaped bar.
Converting the basement storage area involved knocking holes in the wall to create windows and bring in natural light.
The windows “make if feel like an indoor/outdoor spade verses a basement,” Arthur said. “We brought in area rugs, and furnishings that we thought were a bit Art Deco meets Spanish colonial.”
Arthur said that restoring the building was “a labor of love.”
“We feel like this is going to be a continual investment and one of San Diego’s most unique real estate assets,” Arthur said.
Headquarters: Downtown San Diego
President and CEO: Doug Arthur
Business: Commercial real estate investment
Number of employees: 25
Contact: 619-234-5600; firstname.lastname@example.org
Notable: SENTRE has acquired, developed and/or operated projects throughout the West Coast totaling more than 10 million square feet and $4 billion in transactions.