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Hotel E opening on Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square as part of $18 million lodging project

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Providing a boost for downtown Santa Rosa redevelopment, Hotel E will welcome its first overnight guests Wednesday as the 111-year-old beaux-arts building starts a new chapter as a modern lodging property.

About 30 hotel workers were scrambling Tuesday doing final preparations and management was awaiting clearance from city officials to open the doors on the first part of the $18 million hotel project along the western edge of Old Courthouse Square.

The 39 guest rooms in the revitalized historical building, which previously housed a bank, a law firm and a college, will range in price from $306 to $409 a night for a Saturday stay in August, according to the hotel’s website.

Some of the first guests will be visiting for Saturday’s Ironman 70.3-mile triathlon race, which will offer competitors a tour of Sonoma County’s wine countryside before finishing on the square in front of the hotel.

“Most of the guests I would say are here for the Ironman. ... That finish line is just a little walk,” said general manager Vern Lakusta, who previously worked at a hotel in Pasadena. “We have seen a lot of pickup activity now as we get to August through the fall, as we get to (grape) harvest.”

While the ornate facade remains the same on the four-story bright white building, the interior went through a complete transformation. The rooms have a modern decor that would be at home on the pages of Martha Stewart Living. The hotel includes 1,000 square feet of meeting space designed to attract executive retreats. Valet parking will be available given the absence of hotel parking on the square.

“I think we have done a great job of keeping the facade and putting the modern touches inside,” Lakusta said. “The rooms are very work-friendly.”

While locals may have little reason to stay overnight, they can get a sense of the hotel by visiting its Enology Lounge on the ground floor, which is a mixture of a wine bar, living room and lobby area. “It is going to be 100% focused on Sonoma beer and wine,” Lakusta said of the beverage lineup.

The second part of the lodging development will be located just south and is slated to open in the spring of 2020, said Hugh Futrell, the developer who bought the old building three years ago and then partnered with San Francisco-based Greystone Hotels to convert it into a hotel. It will add 29 more guestrooms and two suites with private decks, along with Perry’s Restaurant and a Starbucks coffeehouse.

“The commitment we had for a long time is to help revive and transform Santa Rosa’s central core. … A first-class hotel on reunified square is part of the strategy,” Futrell said.

In another piece of the downtown revitalization, Futrell has two apartment buildings planned for areas east and north of the square to spur more residential living within the downtown corridor. One of those housing projects already is under construction.

“A city is not just a hotel,” he said. “It’s also housing, jobs and a community feeling.”

Hotel E is part of a recent building boom of lodging properties within the city that includes the opening of hipster Astro motel on Santa Rosa Avenue and expansions at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country near Railroad Square downtown and the luxury Vintner’s Inn.

In addition, two more budget-friendly hotels will open by early 2020: the 142-room AC Hotels by Marriott hotel in Railroad Square and 100 rooms for the Inn at Santa Rosa on Commercial Court right next to Highway 101. Those additions will more than surpass the 400 hotel rooms lost in the 2017 wildfires.

“I like what’s happening as it is giving a full range of options for visitors,” said Brad Calkins, executive director for Visit Santa Rosa.

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