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Gaslamp project to place Marriott among leaders in downtown hotel rooms

With construction of the new Marriott Gaslamp Quarter hotel under way just steps from the entrance to Petco Park, Marriott Hotels & Resorts is a step closer to becoming the leader in hotel room inventory of downtown San Diego.

Located at 660 K St., the new project by hotel group Stanford Hotels includes a $40 million renovation of the former-Clarion Hotel that will feature a street-level restaurant with outdoor dining, a rooftop bar over looking the ballpark and 306 new, four-star rooms.

The former Clarion Hotel is being transformed into the new Marriott Gaslamp Quarter by Stanford Hotels.

Clyde Guinn, senior vice president for Stanford, said the company was initially expecting to spend between $8 million and $10 million on the renovation when it purchased the Clarion Hotel in 1999.

The hotel has taken a number of years to get going because the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 slowed business in much of the tourism industry. The company took a wait-and-see approach to whether it would bounce back, Guinn said.

"San Diego, more than many of the other cities, did well in the aftermath of 9/11," he said. "It really showed us the strength of the market."

The structure was originally built in 1988 and needed extensive work, including the replacement of the majority of the infrastructure such as plumbing, electricity and windows, said Jim Durbin, general manager for Stanford subsidiary San Diego Hotel Co., which manages the hotel.

"We saw what the building was and decided to spend more," Durbin said.

In the end, Stanford will have invested about $160,000 per room.

Roel Construction is the general on the project.

The hotel will include two ballrooms that can host up to 300 guests, four meeting rooms and an 18-seat boardroom, three VIP suites, 12 executive suites and 33 junior executive suites. The building also includes Wi-Fi Internet access and 300 parking spaces.

The former hotel was closed on Oct. 1, 2003, for the renovation to begin.

Durbin said the former-Clarion Hotel had, on average, an 80 percent occupation rate during its operations.

"We are looking for the same occupation rate, with more money per room," he said.

The new rooms brought online in the Marriott Gaslamp Quarter will combine with the existing 1,358-room San Diego Marriott Marina Hotel and the planned 344-room Marriott Renaissance Hotel to total more than 2,000 rooms and make the company one of the downtown inventory leaders.

Guinn said the company lost its stronghold on the downtown market years ago.

"The Gaslamp Quarter hotel will get back to where they were," he said.

Durbin said that the small size of the Marriott Gaslamp Quarter will insulate it from competition in marketing for guests with the other Marriott hotels.

"We're going for a very intimate style," he said. "The (Marriott) Marina is so big, it can't address the customer like we will."

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