Big downtown San Jose hotel undergoes major revamp ahead of reopening

SAN JOSE — A big hotel in downtown San Jose is undergoing a wide-ranging renovation ahead of an upcoming reopening, a revival poised to be a welcome counterpoint to the hotel’s bankruptcy and shutdown.

Signia by Hilton San Jose, known for decades as Fairmont San Jose, is slated to reopen by late March, ending a coronavirus-linked shutdown that began nearly a year ago.

“The hotel is going to be completely repositioned,” said Sam Hirbod, principal executive of the group that owns the Signia by Hilton San Jose.

Operated for more than 30 years as the Fairmont San Jose, the 805-room hotel filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors in March 2021. A reopening now beckons for the landmark hotel consisting of two highrises.

The renovated bar and lounge area at the Signia by Hilton in downtown San Jose. 

“The north tower is being completely renovated,” Hirbod said. “It’s going to be a renovation of every room in every way.”

All told, the renovation is expected to cost about $45 million. That includes $10 million that the hotel owners spent in early 2021 on a complete revamp of the lobby and downstairs common spaces. The lobby is located in the northern tower.

The Signia by Hilton San Jose’s north tower will be opened gradually, floor by floor, as more rooms are renovated.

“Every room is going to be completely new,” Hirbod said. “All of the bathrooms are being upgraded, all of the furniture and fixtures are going to be upgraded and replaced.”

These are far from the only upgrades for the iconic hotel, according to the hotel’s owner.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 25: An interior view of the renovated bar and lounge area at the Fairmont San Jose hotel in downtown San Jose, Calif., is seen on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

“We have completely renovated the fitness center and almost tripled the size of the fitness area,” Hirbod said. “We have fully upgraded the pool deck, including the pool and all the cabanas around the pool.”

In the lounge area, the hotel is aiming for a Zuma concept, which is a combination of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. The hotel has brought aboard Chef Hans, a Dutch chef based in San Francisco who has spent 15 years

“We hired Chef Hans for our food concepts,” Hirbod said. “He has prepared food for entertainers and royalty. He has cooked for major events and top hotels around the world. We landed Chef Hans to take the food concepts both in our lounge and our banquets to a whole new contemporary level.”

Chef Hans has 15 years of experience as a chef working in kitchens in Holland, Australia, and South America, according to his website.

“We are also looking at some new spa concepts for the hotel,” Hirbod.

Hirbod also praised the approach that world-renowned hospitality company Hilton is taking with the management and operation of the Signia hotel.

“Hilton has made an incredible commitment to this hotel,” Hirbod said.

As a result of the bankruptcy, Hirbod was able to terminate its management contract with Accor Management U.S. in order to pave the way for Signia Hilton to become the new manager and operator of the hotel.

During the bankruptcy proceeding, the hotel owner and the Accor group reached a settlement that cleared away the primary obstacle to a financial revamp of the hotel.

Signia Hilton has agreed to provide a $15 million payment to bolster the hotel’s operations and finances. Separately, JPMorgan Chase is providing a $25 million loan as a further bulwark for the hotel.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 25: An interior view of the renovated bar and lounge area at the Fairmont San Jose hotel in downtown San Jose, Calif., is seen on Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group) 

“Hilton as the hotel operator is already a breath of fresh air,” Hirbod said.

Separately, lender CLNC Fair San Jose Finance, which is affiliated with BrightSpire Capital, has provided a $185 million loan to bolster the hotel’s funding, according to documents filed with the Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office. BrightSpire Capital is the principal lender for the hotel, which is located at 170 S. Market St. in downtown San Jose.

“This hotel has become a strategic investment for Hilton as it is for us, as it is for our lender,” Hirbod said. The operator, the owner and the lender have all made some very strategic bets on this hotel.”

Hirbod believes the hotel could help bolster economic activity in downtown San Jose.

“We want to offer an atmosphere that the traveler and the guest are really looking for and are used to getting,” Hirbod said. “We want to bring new dining energy to downtown San Jose. We are going all-in on this.”

Exterior of the Signia by Hilton San Jose. 


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