Just a block from one of the longest piers on the Pacific coast, there’s a gleaming new edifice overlooking the beach in Oceanside, Calif.: a hotel owned by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.
Tribal and town leaders cut the ribbon Tuesday, Feb. 11 on the new SpringHill Suites by Marriott, a custom six-story, 149-room facility that boasts a rooftop pool, a hip seafood restaurant, and rooms 30 percent bigger than the industry average. Representing the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council at the opening were Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. and Councilman Alex S. Cloud.
“This is a great opportunity for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, a great opportunity for the City of Oceanside to prosper,” Newton said. “I want to thank Growth Fund Properties for the hard work that they do.”
The Ignacio-based drum group Yellow Jacket Singers kicked off the ceremony, which took place outside the hotel’s front entrance, with a pair of songs. Cloud said the music was an appropriate way to bring the hotel to life.
“The drum is the heartbeat of what we say is life. It’s coming alive today,” Cloud said.
The property was developed by GF Properties Group, the tribe’s real estate arm. Asset Manager Brian Mulvany, who works in the company’s Denver office, supervised the project. Mulvany said one of his favorite touches is a “living wall” near the entrance, a giant work of art composed of local plants set in an array of irrigated panels.
Connected to the hotel is the Hello Betty Fish House, a Baja-style seafood restaurant that serves dishes including fish tacos and margaritas. Though the tribe frequently partners with others on real estate projects, on this one it owns 100 percent of both the hotel and the restaurant, said Patrick Vaughn, president and COO of GF Properties.
The tribe has developed or purchased various properties across the country, including condos, office buildings and industrial space, but this is its first hotel project, he said.
“The Southern Ute Indian Tribe invests for the long term,” Vaughn said.
To facilitate its first foray into the hospitality business, Southern Ute Growth Fund Operating Director Bob Zahradnik said the tribe sought out partners with expertise. That was a big reason for pursuing a Marriott franchise, he said, because the company has the best reservations system in the business. The tribe also contracted with Denver-based Sage Hospitality to run the hotel and its subsidiary, Sage Restaurant Group, to run the restaurant, he said.
“We are certainly honored to be a part of this great project,” said Walter Isenberg, CEO of Sage Hospitality. “The hotel was built with our environment in mind. We are going to be LEED silver certified. … None of this would be possible without GF Properties.”
The hotel sits on land the tribe purchased in 2005 that includes four adjacent city blocks. The tribe hopes to develop that space in the coming years into a combination of apartments and an open public area, Vaughn said.
“We’re not going to be here today and gone tomorrow,” he said.
For his part, Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood – who was joined at the ceremony by the city’s manager, fire chief, police chief and council members – said he was grateful for the tribe’s efforts to stimulate development in the area located approximately 30 miles north of San Diego.
“Thank you to the tribe, the Tribal Council, for being involved in Oceanside,” he said. “We’re happy to have you here in our town.”
Cloud later gave Wood a tobacco gift as a gesture of goodwill.
“I can go back and tell [tribal members] how beautiful this place is and invite them to come over here,” he said.
When tribal members do visit, they might be surprised to find familiar artwork hanging in the hotel: In among the series of images of coastal life are three prints of Southern Ute regalia from the archives of The Southern Ute Drum.
“The Tribal Council felt that it was important that we contribute a piece of their heritage,” Vaughn said.