The New New Miramar

On Thursday, June 7, Caruso Affiliated representatives met with Association directors Ted Tedesco and MA President Bill Palladini, with Jim Langhorne and Chief Kevin Wallace at Montecito Fire District, county staff, Supervisor Salud Carbajal, members of the Seaside Association, Voices of Montecito, and others. Through the use of such meetings, they have probably reduced the number of contentious issues to two: a shift in architectural style from “cottage” to “plantation” that is likely to draw some criticism, and the heavy use of lawn area that would require the heavy use of water may also present a problem.

MJ Editor Timothy Buckley and I met privately in the conference room at Prudential California Realty office on Coast Village Road with a group from Caruso Affiliates and conducted the following interview with David W. Williams, AIA, senior vice president architecture, and Rick J. Caruso, CEO; we’ve melded their answers, as both men answered our various queries:

Q. Your new plans seem complete; is there anything you’ve left out, are waiting to finish, or changed significantly?

A. We’ve actually got fewer keys than were on the Schrager plan along the oceanfront, but we’ve lived within the building envelopes, both vertically and within the footprints. We wanted bigger rooms, so we’ve ended up with twenty-four keys on the beachfront versus thirty-six (and 209 keys total, versus 216). This is completely within the spirit of the Community Plan; we haven’t gone and tried to do something crazy; there’s no surprises. We’ve delivered everything that’s been asked of us. We are largely or substantially in conformance with everything we have presented to the community all along. The most substantial changes to the plan are elimination of two tennis courts; there will be no tennis facility on the property.

Why remove the tennis courts?

Two tennis courts take about fifteen-thousand square feet; the most people you’re going to have on those two courts at any one time would likely be six. That’s a tremendous amount of area to devote to that number of guests. It just seemed like a much better use of real estate, creating more open space, more lawn area, and giving us an opportunity to create a separate zone for our spa. Removing the tennis courts allowed us to take the spa building and tuck it up into the northwest corner where there will be a meandering water feature, and a smaller, quieter pool area.

Have any of the original cottages been saved?

No. Nobody asked; just the opposite; people have asked that they be taken down.

Are you planning to donate or give one or more away?

They are so full of mold and rot, they are frankly not safe to be in, but if somebody really wants one I’m sure we’d be happy to let them pick one up, but I don’t know what they’d do with it.

There is a lot of lawn in these plans. We may be entering an extended period of drought; won’t that create a problem down the road?

Probably a good third to a half of the landscape design areas are drought resistant, but we may look into wells, though that is not contemplated today; there was one a long time ago. As for the rest of the landscaping, we are relocating or preserving all the existing trees except for about three or four.

Plans show many more trees than presently exist.

We’re keeping what’s there and then we’re importing a bunch of mature trees; we’re not bringing in saplings; it’s going to look like this when we’re done.

How has the issue of employee housing been approached?

We own a single-family residence nearby, and four one-bedroom units have been set aside for employees.

The architecture has taken on a new look; rather than cottagy, you’ve gone more upscale, more modern.

It’s intended to look a little bit more “plantation,” but it’s intended to look like a home that was there and now is the lobby of the hotel.

Those who’ve seen these plans express great enthusiasm over the way you’ve dealt with the main entrance. Could you describe what you’ve done?

Yes, what we call the “guest arrival experience.” We have one curb-cut along [South] Jameson, so we’re bringing all our guests along this generous [two-lane, two-way] entry drive, into a motor court with a small porte-cochere. This is the main house, our entry building, with a see-through lobby, with the exception of an indoor/outdoor fireplace that’s on center with that entry. To the left, we have our check-in; to the right we have our living room, which is more or less a lounge area that connects to a second-floor restaurant above this building.

Speaking of restaurants, how many and what kind will you have?

That second-floor is where our three-meal restaurant is, so breakfast and lunch occur there, and later in the afternoon it transforms, becoming more of a premier dining experience – the lighting comes down, the linens go on. There are 120 total seats in the second-story restaurant, and we’ll have 258 seats total, which includes the pool restaurant, which is outdoors but under cover (a porch), and down to the beach bar and snack house; we’ll probably add a malt shop in another area for the kids.

You’ve made plans for conventions and meetings.

Through the lobby area, we have this large courtyard and beyond, the [6,000 square feet] ballroom, so this is about a four-hundred-person capacity, and with various other meeting rooms, there is a total capacity for about six hundred people; events could be outdoors; they could be indoors and outdoors.

How have you dealt with the freeway noise?

The two-story guestrooms along Jameson back up to the freeway but will be oriented towards the ocean; our one-story guestrooms are inside [the perimeter], and there will be a sound wall. All the back-of-the-house and administration takes place on Jameson, along with a sundry shop, and support retail, which will also help buffer the freeway noise.

What do you plan for the railroad crossing?

The intent is to build a small station at the railroad crossing that will be manned.

How about parking?

There are parking spaces for drop-off for beach-club members [on the southeast], but valets will take the cars away. They will also be used for off-loading for beachfront rooms. Almost all parking is underground, underneath the main building.

We’ve provided sixty-two public beach-access parking stalls. These are not part of our parking count, but we’ve provided them on Jameson; we’ve set the buildings back and set the sound wall back to make room for them, which are partially on our property; we’ve also added additional parking along Eucalyptus.

What will one see of the Miramar from the freeway?

What you’ll see is the top of the entry building, the tops of other buildings along South Jameson, and a little bit above, but most of it will be buffered by landscaping and trees. There will be little peek-a-boos into the project – we don’t want it to be totally isolated from the freeway.

So, what kind of place will the new Miramar be?

It will be a family friendly but upscale experience. The main house is to feel like a home – a large home but a nice home – and have a very residential scale to it.

We have golfer suites with their own parking stalls, whether they are golfers or not, two common pools, and smaller spas that may service a couple of bungalows or a small private pool that might service four guest bungalows. We’ll have umbrellas and chairs on the beach [they will be taken in at night], and the ocean raft will return.

Our neighbors can access the property, and people on the beach can come up and enjoy the beach bar and snack house, but it isn’t intended that we get any walk-in traffic.

And a typical accommodation?

A typical guest room is in a bungalow-style building. What we have [mostly] is a suite, where you have one bedroom on either side and a living room in the center. This is two keys; if you are renting the suite portion of the room, you get that and then the other is a separate key, but it could be treated all as one.

Will the Miramar be affiliated with other hotel properties?

For reservations, we will, but otherwise we haven’t made any decision: it’s going to be called Miramar, but whether or not there is an association, we’re not sure.

We notice that Miramar Avenue is to become a dead end. Why?

We have the full community support in eliminating Miramar Avenue through here. We’ve created a twenty-foot-wide fire lane that’s being done with a grass-crete product so that fire department vehicles can access the property. It will be landscaped with turf block and not look like fire access. •••

Caruso expects to deliver the completed Miramar site plan to the Montecito Board of Architectural Review on Monday July 30, and a final hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled for December 19. Caruso plans to begin demolition in January 2008 and construction shortly thereafter. An early 2009 grand opening is projected.