The pandemic kept two of three hotels owned by Irvine Co. shuttered; that doesn’t mean business was stalled behind the scenes.
The Newport Beach-based real estate owner and operator has plans in the works to rebrand and reopen the 536-room Hotel Irvine and the 295-room Fashion Island Hotel.
Irvine Co. is seeking “world-class” hotel companies to operate the two properties, the company said in a statement last week.
Sources indicate Irvine Co. has tapped Eastdil Secured to lead the search for the new operators. Irvine Co. didn’t disclose whether one operator would manage both hotels, or if two companies would operate Hotel Irvine and Fashion Island Hotel separately.
The new operator will lease the hotels from Irvine Co., which will maintain ownership of the properties.
This differs from previous management agreements Irvine Co. has had with companies like Four Seasons and Hyatt Hotels, as those companies had a management contract for the property; the new operator, or operators, are expected to enter into long-term lease agreements for the hotels.
A timeframe for the change in operator, and a reopening of the two hotels, has not been announced.
Hotel Irvine is the eighth largest hotel in the county by room count; Fashion Island is No. 39.
Irvine Co.’s third local hotel property, the Resort at Pelican Hill, will not be impacted by these changes.
The two hotels temporarily closed in March 2020, along with many other area properties, as a result of the pandemic and its impact on travel.
Though most local hotels have since reopened along with state’s economy, a few remain shuttered, with Hotel Irvine and Fashion Island Hotel among the most prominent yet to resume operations.
During the extended closure, Irvine Co. said it “began exploring potential options to reimagine these properties.”
The company hasn’t disclosed whether it seriously considered non-hotel uses for either site over that time, but says that going forward the properties will continue to operate as hotels.
“Our research has revealed an opportunity to strengthen the future success of the hotels by identifying a world-class hotelier to reopen and operate the properties,” the company said in a statement.
Irvine Co. said it will retain ownership of the land and enter into a long-term lease with “a premier hotel brand with national and international expertise.”
Irvine Co. first hinted at new plans for the two properties about a month into the pandemic, when it gave a heads-up to the community that a repositioning was likely.
“It is clear that the hotel industry will evolve into a new level of hotel guest expectations and service,” the company said in an April 2020 letter, noting that this evolution was likely to lead to a “repositioning and reimagining of our hotels with a focus on delivering a first-class clean, safe and healthy environment for our local communities, our guests and our hotel service personnel.”
The pandemic caused Irvine Co. to furlough north of 1,000 employees across its three hotel properties; the Resort at Pelican Hill, which has 204 rooms and 128 villas, was the least impacted as it stayed open.
Hotel Irvine and Fashion Island Hotel were among the more than two dozen hospitality properties in OC that laid off more than 200 employees in the first month of the pandemic, according to state records.
Last week’s news is the latest shakeup for Fashion Island Hotel, a 19-story property on a 5.4-acre parcel next to the high-end Fashion Island shopping center, also owned by Irvine Co.
It rebranded as the Fashion Island Hotel in 2017; it was previously called Island Hotel.
At one point, the hotel was the lone Four Seasons hotel in the county. In 2005, Irvine Co. took over management.
The Irvine Co. built the hotel in 1986; it underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2015.
Hotel Irvine, meanwhile, was first built by Irvine Co. in 1985 and was operated by Hilton Hotels until Hyatt Hotels took over in 1990.
Irvine Co. assumed management of the 14-story hotel in 2013.