Inn announces expansion plans
by Bret Bradigan
The already competitive world of upscale resorts has become
even more fierce. Bacara, Biltmore, La Costa, are just a few
of the new and/or improved resorts.
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa , to meet this challenge, must
go through a major expansion and renovation, said Thad Hyland,
the historic inn's managing director, who gave the first public
overview of their plans at the Rotary Club luncheon today.
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, Ojai's largest employer and taxpayer,
is scheduled to start its $47 million expansion and overhaul
in January. That amount - for the first major renovation since
1987- is "enough to buy another resort," said Hyland.
Up to 95 new rooms will be added, as well as renovations and
improvements throughout the facility, including new clubhouse
and lockers, new service buildings at the existing maintenance
area on the west side of the property, and upgrades - particularly
technological - of meeting spaces to address the needs of conference
customers. They also plan to add a pub and a pastry shop.
The critical need, said Hyland, is infrastructure. "The
physical plant needs a lot of work. A lot of this is renovation."
Sewer and water lines are in need of upgrades. Design features
are inconsistent. The sound system in the ballroom is inadequate
for business customers, who, at present, must eat where they
To compete for convention business, Hyland said that the hotel
would feature high-speed wireless Internet service. "You
could take your laptop to meeting, take it to your room, or go
to the bar, and get your e-mail."
During the renovations, the hotel will keep 60 of its 210 rooms
open for golf and spa vacations, as well as for limited dining
in its restaurants.
Those employees, of which the Inn employs 500 when fully staffed,
who are affected by the changes will have the option to be trained
to become subcontractors in the renovation, doing plaster or
landscape work, for example.
"We have very good employees," said Hyland. "We
want to make sure we keep them."
He is also working an exchange program with other resorts, where
employees would go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming or Hawaii to work.
"It might be an adventure for some folks; they would get
new experiences to share with the rest of the staff."
The architectural design will restore much of the 79-year-old
Inn's original Spanish Revival style, such as the Neff Building.
"At the end of the day, it will look it belongs in Ojai.
It will have a sense of place," Hyland said.
The plans will be presented to the city of Ojai Planning Commission
in June. R.D. Olsen has been hired as the general contractor,
and three construction crews will be at work simultaneously.
Environmental review is taking place now.
Ojai City Manager Dan Singer said the environmental review process
will be a careful one. "There have been important issues
raised so far," he said. But he said the Inn has shown an
eagerness to cooperate, citing their water reclamation project,
"which goes beyond anything they would be required to do.
"This project is not likely to be felt by the average citizen
in any significant way," Singer said, and that those impacts,
construction traffic, for instance, will be minimized as much
Hyland acknowledges that expansion will cause some concerns among
Ojai residents, and stressed that environmental mitigation efforts
are of prime importance.
"It is our best interest to keep the environment pristine,"
he said. "We try to do the right thing whenever we can."
The Inn's award-winning recycling program was one indication
of the Inn's environmental commitment, he said, as well as the
lavender fields along Highway 150 being planted with organic
compost. The Inn will also add custom-made, eight-passenger electric
cars to its fleet to ferry customers back and forth to downtown
Ojai for shopping and restaurants. The renovation will make the
Inn more energy-efficient as well, adding insulation and fuel-efficient
boilers and chillers to rooms. The water reclamation system plans
are state of the art, as well, Hyland said.
They also plan to plant 430 trees, including sycamores and oaks.
"We really try to do all these things in an earnest manner,"
Singer said that while the Inn would be held to high environmental
standards, "this is the cleanest industry you could ever
invite to be the backbone of your community."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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