Friday, September 29, 2006

Joie de Vivre Update

I was able to attend a community meeting last week for the Joie de Vivre hotel planned (interior demo is occurring as I write) at the Cal Western Life Building at 926 J Street.

His vision of a boutique hotel is one it that needs to be a reflection of the community and how it's citizens feel about it for it to be successful. That was what the meeting was about. To pick everyones brains on the subject.

The room was full of people from young and old, straight and gay, married and single, hipsters and hippies, different ethnicities, and different economic backgrounds, all with opinions of what the hotel should be like.

We were all asked to think of 5 words to describe Sacramento and the hotel.
My words were:
1) Unexpected/surprising -People are surprised to see what Sacramento is about after being here for a little while compared to what their perception was.
2) Lush -Trees, Greenery, Rivers, Parkways
3) Diverse - We are one most diverse cities in the US
4) Influential -Being the state capitol, politics and influence play a role in our city
5) Aspiring -For what Sacramento aspires to be

I personally wanted to stay away from the really old feeling words like historic, timeless, traditional and the such.

In the end, my group choose words that reflected the past and the hopeful future of Sacramento. Unexpected/Surprising, Lush, Aspiring, Influential, and Timeless.

While most people were on the same page other common words I heard most were welcoming, friendly and eclectic.

One part of the meeting that I found very interesting was when Chip asked everyone to tell him what percent of the hotel between the historic and timeless, and chic and modern they would like to see. The first lady who responded said 90% historic and timeless, 10% chic and modern, which I thought would be the common consensuses from most people in the my surprise the responce from the crowd was a big "No!!"

Almost everyone wanted to see this become something different from what Sacramento currently has, or is accustom to seeing. People wanted to see more like 10% "old" and 90% chic and modern, which I am very much in favor of. He mentioned that in the other meetings, people also felt this way. Which I was a little surprised at, but very glad to hear.

Maybe it's that I go to so many of these community meetings and a majority of people that go are the older generation Sacramentians that usually want to keep the historic, traditional and timeless parts of Sacramento alive and aren't so much into seeing the cosmopolitan side of Sacramento (regardless of how small it is, but is growing fast)

I am all for keeping the history of Sacramento, but I think a lot of times people are too consumed by it and try to portray it too often in everything we do. There are only so many things that can pay homage to the Gold Rush, Railroads, and Capitol. It gets boring and old after a while. Time to mix it up a bit.

Chip had what I thought was a good idea for the hotel (I'm sure he has been thinking about this for a while already). He wants to do a combination of both, which would include when you first arrive at the hotel you get a sense of history and timelessness from the building itself, but when you step inside, something more chic, modern and surprising with the lobby, entryway and restaurant, then as you move to the rooms from the elevator and hallway, slowly go back to traditional.

His reasoning seemed to be Sacramento has that older, timeless feel to it on the outside, but inside people are much more sophisticated, cultured, and modern than what they may be perceived as, but deep on the inside, there is still that sense of tradition. Pretty accurate in my mind.

One feature that I think will be absolutely amazing is the outdoor patio will be open on the 6th floor facing the Capitol Dome. If you drive down J Street you can see it when you look up at the building. As the area cleans up a bit more, I can imagine the most amazing wedding ceremonies at Caesar Chavez Park followed by a reception on the 6,000 square foot patio over looking the Capitol. This will be the spot for receptions in the future.

We were also asked about what we would like to see with the restaurant. Everyone was very adamant about a non-chain. They assured us it would not be a chain.

Since this hotel is supposed to be a reflection of the community, my recommendation was to look at a local restaurateurs such as Biba or Rick Mahan at Waterboy who have been part of the community for a while now. They seemed to want to do a play on all the fresh local produce we have access to here in California. While that sounds fine and dandy, it unfortunately also screamed more California or American cuisine to me.

One lady had an excellent recommendation to have the restaurants wine list include Delta wineries in addition to the usual Napa and Sonoma wines.

All I can say is I can't wait to walk through that lobby for the first time. I think this is going to be a real landmark project in Sacramento. Expected opening is Spring 2008


Carl said...

Excellent post, and thanks for going to the meeting. The plan sounds exciting, and I think Sacramento has needed a nice boutique hotel for quite some time. I'm also glad to hear the near universal opposition to chain places. I don't dislike the Paragary's places like some folks, but enoough already with those. I'd like someone else to get a chance.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

It's not that I don't like Paragary, but there are just so many. I do like a couple of his places, but like you said I want to see someone else step up to the food plate.

I will admit, I was extremely happy when the new Cafe Bernardo opened at 15th and R. The wait at Fox and Goose is just too damn long for weekend breakfast. Maybe this will help cut that line down a bit. Both places have really good breakfast.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

Also, originally the hotel was suppoed to be done toward the end of next year. I'm actually glad it got pushed back a bit so some of the projects on the drawing board like the 700 K Street retail, and maybe even the 10th and K project will be completed before people start staying.

CentralCity said...

I am very excited about this project , Sacramento needs very badly a boutique hotel ( or two).

Always good news when a development is anti franchise as well , save those for Natomas .

With the Metropolitan across the street , the only thing the Chavez Park area needs is for the western end of the block to be filled in . I dont want to see the Christian Science Reading room bldg go , just all thats in btwn it and Joie De Vivre.

Great info LIUS , keep us posted !

LivingInUrbanSac said...

This is easily one my favorite projects out there right now. It gives Sacramento something else that is entirely unique to Sacramento.

I think The Metropolitan and Cathedral Square Tower are the two most important projects in the CBD after anything that starts with "K"

That stretch between 10th and 11th J Street is a terrible sight when people enter the city on J Street

jason said...

Agree on so many points with this post and related comments. First, that the boutique hotel is an excellent use of the building. I know other historical buildings that have been explored for this use (we looked at one on K street ourselves), but this particular building is perfect. It would have just killed me to see a quick refurb job and then see it reloaded back into the office space matrix. Second, that they are trying for a mix of timeless (exterior) and sophisticated urban interior. Sacramento is in desparate need of more diversity. The exterior has enough history (er, i mean timelessness) to carry its weight. Third, about the restaurant. Another chain would just devestate that corner, especially with Chavez right across the street. Why give all that to some non-local outfit. And while I feel the same about the Paragary dynasty, my experience is that investors want to see something with a solid track record and the Paragary group definitely has that. Regarding the type of cuisine, i'd love to see something that made that corner a little more hoppin', especially with concerts in the park and the Crest so close by. Either that or a destination restaurant that brings pp. all the way from NY.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

Thanks for checking out the site, Jason.

I love the who, what and whys of your company. I think I read an article in the business journal about you a short while ago. Very cool. Hopefully we can see you doing something in the central city again about that surface parking lot on the corner of 16th and J? :-)

As for the hotel, I got the impression it was going to be a more chic and happening restuarant from them. I just hope they follow through on it.

I hope after this one, plans can materialize for another in one of the SROs around K Street. I have heard the owners of the Marshall have looked at that as one option.

I'm sure it would be quite the task to pull that off though.

Anonymous said...

I just wish someone would convert the old Hotel Senator into a hotel again, or at least put in a restaurant and lounge on the ground floor under the arches.

LivingInUrbanSac said...

Yeah, The Senator is somewhat a waste as an office building. That would be one of the next building I would love see turned back into a hotel, along with the Marshal. At least it's still has kept its great look though.

Unfortunetly, it's a very sucessful office building that has next to no vacancy ever and makes a lot of money, so we won't see it turned into anything else in the near future

mama bear said...

I used to work for Joie de vivre hotels in SF. It's one of the best employers in SF. Chip is awesome and does a lot for the staff at his hotels. Also, their company vision is amazing and so are their hotels. The Rex and Maxwell have gorgeous interiors, amazing guest services. They are definitely one of a kind hotels. It's great to hear that they are explanding to our area.