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Travel | Staycation

$80M luxury hotel opens — in former downtown San Diego YMCA

Guild Hotel
The bar is one of the featured amenities of the newly opened Guild Hotel, the latest incarnation of the nearly century-old YMCA building in downtown San Diego.
Robert Benson/Donny Cotten Photography

Room rates at The Guild hotel will approach $400 a night during the summer, a significant bump from the once $69 nightly rates of the former low-budget rooms of just five years ago

More than three years in the making, the 162-room Guild Hotel has opened this week in downtown San Diego, taking over a nearly century-old Army Navy YMCA building.

The $80 million project, originally expected to open in March, is the work of San Diego-based Oram Hotels, in conjunction with Azul Hospitality Group. Debuting just in time for summer, The Guild will cater to both leisure and business travelers, with nightly rates ranging from $250 to more than $400.

Given its unique setting, in a historic building that once welcomed millions of service men and women passing through the city, the boutique property is a good fit for Marriott’s “Tribute” portfolio of more upscale, independent hotels.

“San Diego has a unique, rich history and The Guild personifies that heritage with iconic spaces that are unlike any other hotel in the city,” said Rick Mansur, president and CEO of Azul Hospitality Group. “The Guild pairs an homage to the city’s celebrated past with creative and contemporary design, providing guests with San Diego’s most curated hospitality experience.”

TheGuild-exterior-Courtesy of Oram Hotels.jpg
Exterior of The Guild hotel
Courtesy of Oram Hotels

The hotel, with its upscale touches, like a hand-torched herringbone floor, Brazilian quartzite bar, and rooftop garden penthouse, is a marked contrast to the 260 low-budget rooms and shared bathrooms that were being rented for $49 to $69 a night just five years ago.

Oram purchased the 500 W. Broadway site and building in 2014 for $14 million and spent the last three years overseeing not only the labor-intensive process of preserving the building’s Italian Renaissance-inspired exterior, but also completely transforming the dormitory-style interior into a hotel with modern amenities.

Decades ago, downtown’s nearly century-old YMCA building was a wartime destination for the millions of service men and women passing through the city, but by early next year, it will be reborn as a 162-room luxury boutique hotel.

For example, the YMCA’s former basketball court with elevated running track has been converted into a 3,500-square-foot grand ballroom, featuring original brick wall inlays and hardwood floors. And the former underground pool on the basement level has been re-imagined as another ballroom space, accented with the original blue tiles that lined the pool.

“This was a meticulous, careful restoration of an almost 100-year-old landmark building,” Oram co-founder Alvin Mansour said of the lengthy redevelopment process. “We put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that we honored the building’s structure, landmark status and history throughout the process and that meant doing things with an eye for quality and detail and not for a specific timeline. We think the final result exemplifies that and we’re very proud that we were able to bring this building back to life in such a beautiful way.”

Serving as the hotel’s three-meal-a-day restaurant is Luca, a Mediterranean-influenced alfresco venue that is located off the lobby across from The Guild Bar. Luca also will have seating in what’s being called Grace Garden, a greenery-filled area outfitted with dining tables and lounge seating open to guests from early morning until late evening.