Update: Paséa quietly opened on May 26, and officially opened on June 10.
With the donning of event-exclusive hardhats and grasps of newly minted shovels, Huntington Beach city officials alongside Irvine-based R. D. Olson Construction and Pacific Hospitality Group executives eagerly broke ground on downtown's new luxury hotel on Wednesday afternoon. A cloud of dirt floated south—carried by the ocean breeze—and ceremony attendees studied the unveiled renderings of Paséa Hotel & Spa at Pacific City. Set to be erected at the seemingly terminally vacant dirt lot between First and Huntington streets, the 250-room, eight-story structure has been met with mixed reactions by the local community. In fact, the entire 191,000-square-foot retail, restaurant, residential and hotel community in development at the site has received a similar shaky response.
Meaning "to take a stroll" in Spanish, "paséa" combines the words "Pacific" and "sea," which are both terms fit to describe the four-star hotel's prime location along Pacific Coast Highway—just a few blocks south of the iconic HB Pier and Main Street. RDO President Bob Olson and PHG Founder and CEO Tim Busch both voiced the word "unique" numerous times during their speeches, and Olson noted that "the hotel is ideally suited to complement the Southern California beach-inspired lifestyle" in press materials. Busch shared with the crowd that a "cool firm" powered by "guys with long hair" who "show up in shorts" and "think outside the box" were generously compensated to name the hotel. But while its name conjures up images of a potentially inspiring design, some members of the crowd—ourselves included—were a bit unimpressed.
The opportunity to create something truly original and radical sits in RDO's and PHG's hands, but the hotel's white, rectangular, sterile exterior lacks the charm we imagined. We appreciate the "waves" of balconies featuring glass balustrades and that they've managed to accommodate all 250 rooms with a view of the shoreline, but we hoped for something that combined The Shorebreak Hotel's modern retro vibe with the sophistication of the neighboring Hilton and Hyatt. Paséa doesn't seem to nail it. But—these are just renderings, and only time will tell if the towering building stands as an eyesore or eye candy.
One aspect of Paséa is certain: It will be relentlessly marketed as one of HB's primo event venues. And why wouldn't it be, given its view of the Pacific and more than 25,000 square feet of event space? The ballroom alone owns more than one third of the event area, along with a 6,000-square-foot lawn (hello, weddings!) and 10 meeting rooms. Also penned into the blueprints are a "social room," Blend Café, a Balinese-inspired spa, a rustic modern signature restaurant, an outdoor dining patio and our favorite—a rooftop deck and bar. Smart move to take advantage of the oceanfront view and killer HB sunsets, gang.
Aside from the rooftop retreat, another feature that caught our eyes is the custom designed outdoor pool area. From the renderings, it looks to pull from a more rustic beach aesthetic, incorporating various wood materials along with water and fire features. Olson revealed on Wednesday that it's actually modeled after downtown HB's original architecture, which resembles New York City's Meatpacking District. Think steal, brick, concrete and stone.
Several groups are collaborating on the project, including renowned international hotel architect WATG; international interior design and architecture firm Monogram by Callison, who will tackle interior room design; Los Angeles-based Kay Lang + Associates, who are tasked with dreaming up the interior public spaces; and Costa Mesa-based Hatch Design Group, who will take care of the restaurant and bar.
Busch promised during the groundbreaking ceremony, "This is going to be one of the greatest hotels in Orange County."
Members of the local community are singing Paséa's praises, while others are shaking their fists at its obstruction of their wide open ocean view. Parking and traffic are also two major concerns.
Here's what we know so far about said worries. A two-story subterranean parking structure will accommodate hotel guests, and it will also give the hotel a 14-foot hoist above PCH for a stellar seascape setting. Lauren Crowley of Resonate PR tells us, "The parking facilities will be plentiful, and we do not expect any adverse vehicle traffic in the area." When we spoke with DJM Capital Partners, Inc. about Pacific City's potential impact on increased congestion in downtown, they too predicted a minimal upsurge, pointing to a new extension of Pacific View Avenue and new pedestrian walkways as effective solutions. As we noted in our previous Pacific City post, there will, however, surely be an influx of visitors to the area.
Breathing life into a prize beachfront spot in HB that has sat dusty and vacant for roughly two decades, Paséa is slated to open in early 2016. Pacific City's center hub will launch a few months earlier in August/September 2015, and the residences—with UDR at the helm—will begin construction in 2015.