By Ken Williams | Editor
The aging dowager of Mission Valley hotels, the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, will go “under the knife” starting in January for an $80 million face-lift that will be several years in the making.
Todd Majcher, vice president of destination development for Lowe Enterprises, updated the Mission Valley Planning Group during an informational presentation on Dec. 2 at Mission Valley Library. Lowe Enterprises formed a joint venture with Atlas Hotels and AECOM Capital to revamp the 62-year-old landmark. He told the planners that the resort hotel has been on hard times lately.
Mission Valley News reported about the hotel’s major makeover plans in the September edition [bit.ly/1gn8TzA], and Majcher’s PowerPoint presentation on Dec. 2 provided an even deeper look into the magnitude of the redevelopment project.
Majcher listed the project’s community priorities:
—Create a “front door” at the San Diego River
—Activate the river with parks and trails
—Enhance community bicycle and pedestrian connections
—Enhance access to the trolley
—Design walkable environments
—Incorporate mixed-use development
—Balance the needs of current residents and new development
Majcher said the goal is to create a destination for everyone, while activating the river by expanding parks and multi-use trails and providing a walkable neighborhood. Between the Town and Country project and the luxury apartment development by the Casey Brown Company on the Union-Tribune property next door, the river will be transformed from Fashion Valley Road east to Avenida del Rio, Fashion Valley mall’s entrance off Camino de la Reina.
Another benefit from construction will be improvements to North Hotel Circle Drive and Fashion Valley Road near the hotel, he said.
The project’s first phase, starting in January, will focus on the park and the river, pedestrian and bicycle connections, Hotel Circle, the hotel, the convention center, the lobby and the entry. These are the major components that will transform the aging dowager into a modern, appealing destination for tourists and conventions, Majcher said.
Doug Phillips, the director of sales and marketing, told Mission Valley News in September that many of the older buildings on the property will be demolished, including the one- and two-story ranch style/motel rooms, the Meeting House, Regency Ballroom, Garden Ballroom, the existing restaurants, lobby and Bella Tosca Spa.
The new lobby will be 11,000 square feet and more welcoming to arriving guests, Majcher said, noting that the current lobby can be somewhat confusing to first-time visitors.
New restaurants and bars will be built during the first phase, he said.
The second phase, likely a few years away, will turn to the residential components. Majcher told the planners that 840 residential homes will be built.
In January, the Mission Valley Planning Group voted 13-4 to remove the Town and Country site from the Atlas Specific Plan [bit.ly/1JAafS5]. The Atlas plan was approved in 1988 and had been grandfathered in, but because the revised project is smaller than the original, many aspects of the old plan are no longer valid or required. The planning group then initiated a new multi-use Transit Oriented Development Plan (TOD) in its place.
Town and Country lies just across the river from the Fashion Valley Transit Center, which includes the trolley’s Green Line and bus connections. Access from the hotel to the transit center is via a footbridge.
Majcher said the entire project will embrace the goals of TOD. The new hotel will have 700 rooms, a reduction of almost 300 rooms, and the conference facility would also be smaller, at 170,000 square feet. Even the addition of 840 homes won’t add to traffic in the area, he said.
“There will be zero new trips,” he told the planners.
Majcher said the project’s preliminary Environmental Impact Report would probably be issued in January, and finalized in late spring.
A parking garage will be built, taking up less of a footprint than all the parking spaces that currently exist on the property. He said the developers would consider solar panels for the garage’s rooftop, a proposal that some members of the planning group applauded. The parking garage will allow the developers to create 12.04 acres of open space along the river, which will include a 4.33-acre public park and 3.053 linear feet of new trails.
The Town and Country river park and trails must be created to be consistent with the San Diego River Park Master Plan, Majcher said.
Rob Hutsel, executive director and co-founder of the San Diego River Park Foundation who also sits on the planning board, confirmed to his fellow planners that he has conducted talks with Majcher and others involved in the project to make sure they are fully aware of the master plan requirements for developing along the river.
Majcher said that by balancing and mixing uses on the entire property, the new Town and Country would boast new open space, improved bike connectivity, increased pedestrian access and enhanced transit connections.
“This will be a modern hotel with additional amenities.”
—Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and San Diego Uptown News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.