EDITOR’S NOTE: In full disclosure, my husband has a part-time job with Marriott International Inc., corporate owner of the Residence Inn chain.
Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Bodenhamer called it the most important business opening in recent San Juan Capistrano history.
He and others gathered Thursday at the Residence Inn to beam like proud parents – local politicians, business leaders and city staff. Eleven months ago to the day, a similar group came together for the .
This time, they came to cut a ribbon and check out the digs, one month ahead of schedule, as owner Bob Olson liked to remind people.
“I feel like I kind of birthed a baby,” said City Councilwoman Laura Freese, who campaigned for office three years ago, promising to bring a hotel to San Juan Capistrano. “This is a huge day for me. Huge with a capital ‘H.’ ”
Hotel General Manager Ketra Slayton said the inn already has $509,000 in group contracts and another $133,000 in “transient” room bookings. On Thursday night, the first time guests can check in, the hotel will see a 50 percent vacancy rate, very high by industry standards.
Slayton managed the for years, and was more recently assigned to Chicago. How does the San Juan location compare to other hotel openings?
“Blown out of the water,” Slayton said, adding that the inn is filling a niche between luxury hotels on the coastline and economy motels in the area.
The Residence Inn brand features all suites, in this case 130 of them. The smallest room is a studio that has a full couch, large desk and kitchen. A complimentary breakfast is served every morning, and a snacking hour is free three nights a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The west side of the hotel overlooks the Costco and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. There’s a pool and a tennis court.
Olson said the decorations fall along three themes designed to reflect the communities of San Juan and Capo Beach. The is the biggest influence.
“The San Juan Mission has so much character and charm and architectural beauty,” he said. “We wanted to bring that into this hotel.”
Artwork and furniture pay tribute to the equestrian roots of the town and fans of the beach.
“Being a surfer/cowboy, this is the best,” said John Fischle, .
Mayor Larry Kramer said he watched the construction’s progress while shopping at .
“All of us have ,” he said.
Olson often encounters surprise among those in the real estate biz when he talks of how quickly he was able to propose such a large-scale development and take it to completion.
“How did you get that through,” they ask, Olson said. But city staff put it on a fast track and shepherded him through the process.
On Thursday, the group toasted the hotel with champagne and toured a few third-floor rooms.