Downtown San Diego’s Hotel Palomar is getting a major makeover — and a new name

More than a decade after transitioning to a new name and brand, the Hotel Palomar in downtown San Diego is preparing for yet another identity change. Meet the new Kimpton Alma.

Managed by Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, the 211-room hotel is in the midst of a major redesign that is expected to cost $25 million, said Nick Gregory, senior vice president of hotel operations for Kimpton. That investment, he said, will go towards a “comprehensive transformation” of the Fifth Avenue property, including a refresh of all guest rooms and suites, new restaurants and kitchens, a more inviting pool area, and updated meeting spaces.

The lobby also is being reimagined to make it more airy and light-filled but to also give it an indoor-outdoor feel, with large sliding doors that open out to the sidewalk.

Rendering of hotel’s new lobby

(Polygraph Creative)

“If you think about it, it’s been 10 years of the same design, and while we work hard to make it its best self, it’s at the end of its life cycle, which is why you need to invest,” said Gregory. “So you need to bring it alive for both the current and future traveler.”

The new name — Alma — was specifically chosen to reflect a warmer, more inviting environment in keeping with the relaxed feel that defines San Diego, Gregory explained. Alma, I said, means soul in Spanish. Kimpton, as a chain, he said, prides itself on creating unique properties. Almost all have their own individual names, although Palomar was an example of where there were multiple hotels with the same name.

“If you think about Kimpton’s signature service, which is heartfelt care, personal experiences, we think that Alma is a perfect alignment with that,” he said “San Diego already has that real chill vibe so that free soul spirit will be well represented in the Alma name.”

Work on redesigning the 20-story property began in February, and enough progress was made that the first phase of the lobby and five floors of renovated guestrooms were completed in time for Comic-Con last month, said general manager Carmine Iommazzo. The mix of rooms, which includes 23 suites and two 1,550-square-foot penthouses, will not change.

The Kimpton Hotel Palomar, Iommazzo said, had a darker feel, defined by bronze tones and dark wood floors. The redesign will be “very coastal California,” dominated by deep blue shades, white accents and beige window treatments, he said.

“It’s very light and Southern California coastal now, and there are pops of color through the artwork,” he added. “It will be a very bright, airy Southern California feel.”

A key component of the Kimpton Alma San Diego will be new food and beverage venues, including a new signature restaurant to replace the now-shuttered Curadero, a coastal Mexican-style restaurant that debuted in 2017 following the closing of the hotel’s former Saltbox restaurant.

Iommazzo said Kimpton is not yet ready to reveal the culinary style of the new restaurant, but said it is partnering with Los Angeles chef Jason Neroni of The Rose Venice to help create three new venues. In addition to the more upscale main restaurant, there will be a more casual all-day dining spot in the lobby and food and beverage offerings on the fourth-floor pool deck, which will feature a wood-fired pizza oven.

The pool deck is also being redesigned to eliminate what had been a huge bar there. Instead, there will be a smaller bar with more tables and chairs and day cabanas. The entire project is expected to be completed by early October.

The location of the new Hotel Alma has had something of a checkered history since the original opening in late 2008 of what was then the tony Sè hotel. It wasn’t all that long before the costly project fell into bankruptcy, and the hotel was purchased in an auction in 2011 by Kimpton Hotels for $49 million — far less than the estimated $150 million it cost to develop the hotel. A few months later the property was renamed the Hotel Palomar.

Two years ago, Kimpton sold the hotel for $62.8 million, according to the brokerage, Atlas Hospitality Group.

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