HUNTINGTON BEACH : 1st of Luxury Oceanfront Hotels Opens

Workmen on Tuesday were still laboring on the front yard that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. And inside, the noise of hammers and saws was still resounding throughout the marble halls.

The luxurious Waterfront Hilton Hotel nonetheless officially opened Tuesday, amid rave reviews from the tourists who strolled inside the 12-story oceanfront structure.

One visitor, Viola Bandel of Redlands, stood virtually transfixed as she was facing an indoor waterfall in the brass-and-marble lobby. "We're impressed," she said.

Her husband, Fred Bandel, said, "I think it's a major addition to Huntington Beach, and it's the sort of place I'd like to come to and bring my friends to."

City officials agreed that the hotel is a significant addition to the city. They noted that the $55-million building at Pacific Coast Highway and Huntington Street is the first major structure to open under the city's multimillion-dollar downtown redevelopment program. Three more oceanfront hotels are scheduled to be built as part of the project.

The hotel's developers, Robert L. Mayer and Stephen Bone, were on hand Tuesday, escorting opening-day visitors through the building.

"All 300 rooms have ocean views," Mayer said.

"The architect built this to let everyone see the ocean," Bone added. "This is California."

There were only about 30 guests registered for rooms on opening day, but Michael Quinn, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, said all 300 rooms are already booked for this weekend.

"We have 67,000 reservations already booked through 1993," Quinn said. "A lot of conventions are going to be coming here."

Plans call for the other high-rise hotels to be built next to the Waterfront Hilton, forming a Miami Beach-like area of luxury oceanfront buildings. Mayer said the second one, on land immediately south of the Hilton, will begin construction later this year. That hotel will be built on land now occupied by the Huntington Beach Inn, a motel that will be razed.

Immediately north of the Hilton, a new complex of restaurants and movie theaters called Pierside Pavilion is scheduled to open next month. That structure is also part of the redevelopment downtown.

A new municipal pier, to replace the one closed by storm damage since 1988, is scheduled to be under construction by September.

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