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The effort to transform Santa Rosa’s historic Empire Building into a boutique hotel has picked up some additional real estate and financial backing.

Developer Hugh Futrell, who purchased the clock tower-topped downtown landmark for $2.2 million in July, on Tuesday announced two new partners in the project.

Zack Berkowitz, the owner of the neighboring commercial building 19 Old Courthouse Square, has agreed to allow the second floor of his building to serve as an annex for the hotel.

The second story will become part of the hotel, but Berkowitz will retain control over the ground floor, which he is renovating into spaces for a restaurant and a coffeehouse, said Giles Beeker, project manager with the Hugh Futrell Corp.

The additional space means that instead of the 30 to 40 hotel rooms possible in the four-story Empire Building, the expanded project will now be able to expand to 50 to 60 rooms, Beeker said.

The second partner is Greystone Hotels, a San Francisco-based boutique hotel management company, which will run the hotel as well as be an investor in the project, Beeker said.

The independent hotel group has 11 West Coast properties in California and Oregon, including the King George Hotel in San Francisco and the Hotel Los Gatos in Silicon Valley. The latter currently offers rooms beginning at $360 per night.

Room rates at the Empire building will be consistent with other full-service hotels in the area, Beeker said.

Futrell was looking for a hotel partner that didn’t have any other competing properties in Wine Country and that was willing to be a capital investor.

Beeker, who began working with Futrell on the so-far fruitless effort to establish a wine museum in the ground floor of the Museum on the Square building, has had a long career in the hospitality business and said he reached out to people he knew at Greystone.

“We all share similar values and philosophy,” Beeker said. “It feels like a very, very good fit.”

One of the founders of Greystone, Peter G. Trethewey, splits his time between Sonoma and Palm Beach, Beeker said.

One of the key benefits of partnering with Greystone is that guests at its Bay Area properties could be enticed through cross marketing to stay in Santa Rosa when they head to Wine Country.

Berkowitz’s property offers not only the space for extra hotel rooms, which helped attract a hotelier of the Greystone’s caliber, but it also will save the project the additional cost of installing a commercial kitchen into a historic building, Beeker said.

Exterior improvements will be made to tie the two buildings together aesthetically. Those efforts could extend to a dark, narrow building between the two that is separately owned, not part of the project, and until recently home to Seed to Leaf Organics, which recently closed, Beeker said.

The Empire Building, home for years to law offices, is now only occupied by the Sonoma County Bar Association on the ground floor. It will relocate when hotel work begins, which is expected in early 2017.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 707-521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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