Two large-scale luxury hotels are expected to be open for business in downtown San Luis Obispo by early next year, helping to boost the city's tourism economy, according to city officials.
But as construction on Hotel San Luis Obispo and Hotel Serra progresses, the projects have drawn criticism from some locals. Critics say the buildings are blocking views of hills as they tower over neighboring structures, changing the character of the downtown area.
City officials believe the new hotels will boost the local economy and draw new visitors.
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"They will bring a major benefit to the city and opportunities for visitors from across California and elsewhere," said Molly Cano, the city's tourism manager. "These are luxury, boutique hotels that will attract people who haven't visited SLO before, or who haven't done so for a long time."
Upon completion, Hotel San Luis Obispo, located at 995 Morro St. in the Chinatown district, will feature 78 rooms and suites with views for guests of surrounding hills and hotel gardens, according to the hotel's website.
The centerpiece of a mixed-use project under development by Copeland Properties, the hotel is slated to open in the first quarter of 2019, said Erin Wickman, a hotel spokesperson.
Wickman added that hiring for key positions will happen by late fall and the majority of the positions will be hired in early winter.
Additional amenities include two on-site restaurants, a spa, garden courtyard, pool, gym and social event and meeting facilities for up to 350 guests.
Hotel Serra is located at 1125 Garden St. in the heart of downtown, in close proximity to the Downtown SLO Farmers Market and other activities. It's also scheduled to open early next year and will feature 65 rooms and suites with views of downtown, surrounding mountains and the hotel’s edible gardens.
"Guests will also enjoy a brasserie restaurant, a full-service spa, gym, a rooftop pool and bar as well as private party and meeting facilities for up to 60 guests," according to the hotel's website.
Hiring for Hotel Serra, a project of Garden Street SLO Partners, L.P., including developer Hamish Marshall, is expected to begin in September with job listings and information on the hotel's website and social media accounts, said Kyvon Brown, the hotel's marketing manager.
Hotel tax revenue makes up about 10 percent of the city's budget — about $7.4 million last year — and provides additional funding (about 3 percent of the 13 percent total tax assessed at city hotels) in special taxes for tourism marketing, both within the city and countywide.
Cano said the new hotels will be different than most other in San Luis Obispo because of their upscale, full-service accommodations.
Cano said the new lodging will offer a "high four- or five-star type of experience that you might get in the wine country in Sonoma or in Santa Barbara."
At the start of its construction a few years ago, Hotel San Luis Obispo was estimated to generate as much as $800,000 annually in transient occupancy taxes once it was up and running.
Perhaps the closest comparison in terms of a boutique hotel experience is the Granada Hotel and Bistro, a much smaller operation than the new hotels, Cano said.
The Granada, which opened in 2012 at a 1126 Morro St., is a 17-room boutique hotel with a restaurant and bar. Granada has a proposed project under building review to add an additional 22 rooms, according to city officials.
"I think this is very exciting that these hotels are opening in our community and diversifying our lodging options," Cano said. "I think in the long run this will be great for the city by bringing an infusion of visitors to the downtown, where there's walkability to local shops, restaurants, the SLO Repertory Theatre and other downtown venues."