Real Estate

Historic Pasadena hotel gets $60-million makeover

Revival of Hotel Constance in Pasadena reflects city's rising profile as an international travel destination

A historic hotel in downtown Pasadena that served as sedate senior housing for decades is about to make a splashy comeback.

The $60-million makeover of Hotel Constance reflects Pasadena's rising profile as an international travel destination. As part of its revival, the Chinese owners have brought in one of Thailand's best-known hoteliers to manage the property and attempt to shake up the city's staid hospitality market.

Hong Kong interior designer Joey Ho, for instance, created a playfully futuristic-looking bar that will soon serve cocktails where generations of retirees once dined. His vision for the Colorado Boulevard hotel's upscale restaurant calls for a large communal table where guests can get to know one another.


Hotel Constance: An Aug. 14 Business section article about the renovation of the historic DusitD2 Constance hotel in Pasadena misspelled the name of hotel operator DusitD2's parent company as Ducit International. It is Dusit International.

"We need a new direction for hospitality in Pasadena, the arch-conservative city in L.A. County," said Martin Nicholson, the Ireland-born general manager of the inn now known as the DusitD2 Constance Pasadena.

DusitD2 is the avant-garde brand of Ducit International, a Thai hotel management company that operates luxury properties in several countries including Thailand, China and United Arab Emirates. The Constance will be Ducit's first inn in the United States when it opens next month.

The hallmarks of DusitD2 hotels are cutting-edge design, high-tech connectivity and other modern touches intended to appeal to young travelers. Guests in Pasadena, for example, will be able to easily connect their personal electronic devices to the televisions in their rooms so they can watch Netflix and other broadcast services from their own accounts.

Each room has its own iPad that guests can use to adjust room controls such as lighting, make housekeeping requests and dinner reservations or purchase items from the hotel.

The restaurant menu will have an international bent, with such nonconventional fare as breakfast ramen, Nicholson said. At check-in, guests will receive a refreshment to drink and a hot towel.

"We're going in a new direction from other branded hotels," he said, "down to the uniforms."

The rooms will cost more than $200 a night and are small by modern standards but have been painstakingly laid out by designer Ho, who often has little space to work with in densely-developed Hong Kong.

"We needed somebody who could take advantage of every inch," said William Chu, chief financial officer of Singpoli, the Hong Kong real estate investment company that owns the hotel.

Preservationist Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, called the revamped Constance an eye-popping addition to the city. The interior meets federal standards for historic rehabilitation, she said, "but is dramatically contemporary and not like anything else in Pasadena."

The seven-story Hotel Constance was built in 1926 by Constance V. Perry, a prominent local businesswoman. At the time, Pasadena was one of the country's top resort destinations for wealthy Easterners who came there to escape cold weather.

Perry sold the hotel four years later so she could devote her time to managing her extensive real estate holdings in the San Joaquin Valley, The Times reported in 1930.

According to an old phone directory, Perry lived a few blocks away from the hotel on South Lake Avenue, a residential neighborhood that evolved into a prime shopping street in the second half of the 20th century. Blocks around the intersection of Lake and Colorado became an office district.

Among the office landlords there now is Singpoli, which bought 2 North Lake Ave. in 2009 and went on to acquire the Constance across the street along with adjacent retail space including a Bank of America Branch at Lake and Colorado.

Singpoli plans to continue to improve the Constance after the renovated original hotel opens next month, Chu said. The second phase, an addition to the west side of the hotel, will include 25 more guest rooms, a lounge and a rooftop pool with a sun deck and bar. There will also be a fitness center and meeting rooms, along with new shops and restaurants on Colorado Boulevard.

Those additions should cost about $25 million and be completed by 2016, Chu said. By then, the hotel will employ about 150 workers.

Singpoli may eventually raze the Bank of America building and spend an additional $60 million to $80 million to replace it with a new office tower, he said.

Pasadena's hotel business is picking up steam, hospitality industry analyst Bruce Baltin of PKF Consulting said. About 85% of the city's rooms are occupied every night, but at lower prices than other parts of Los Angeles County.

Pasadena is "rate challenged," he said, because much of its occupancy comes from people working for engineering firms, government contractors or science-based businesses.

"That's not a market segment that wants to pay very high rates," he said.

The city has, however, attracted more tourists in recent years.

"Pasadena is getting much better as a leisure destination," Baltin said. "The world has discovered its attractions."

Twitter: @rogervincent

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times