Originally approved for development in 2001 but then waylaid by the dotcom collapse, followed by a decline in tourism after 9/11, and then by “the collapse of the housing market and overall poor economic conditions” in San Francisco following the Great Recession, Highgate Hotels was positioning to finally break ground for an upscale 11-story hotel with 156 guest rooms at 72 Ellis Street back in 2015.

Instead, the entitlements to build were allowed to expire (following three prior extensions) and the Union Square site was flipped to citizenM, an integrated developer and operator of boutique hotels.

From citizenM’s local counsel:

“Rather than traditional lobbies, citizenM hotels provide stylishly designed public spaces with the look and feel of a living room rather than a commercial space—the goal is to create common spaces so inviting, that guests are enticed to spend more time out of their rooms than in them.

Accordingly, the rooms are small but high quality: each has a large window, a king size bed, a rain showerhead, free wifi and free movies. This model has resulted in a network of affordable luxury hotels on prime locations in metropolitan cities all over the world.”

As such, citizenM is now seeking permission to construct an 11-story, but five foot taller, hotel upon the 72 Ellis Street site as well, but with 192 hotel rooms ranging from 226 to 293 square feet in size, a 1,332-square-foot public open space on the roof, and 8,390 square feet of retail across the first floor and mezzanine levels.

And as redesigned by Gensler, the proposed development would no longer include a restaurant fronting Ellis, but grab-and-go items would be available in a bakery and bar area on the second floor.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Notcom

    Yeah, nice building…or whatever.

    But I suspect the real story here is the remarkabl(y) delayed development of this lot: I went back to the prior stories and was unclear on w/not Highgate has owned this lot all along (I’m guessing by logic and the wording that they did not).

    If not then I guess we can write this off to “things happen”; but if it has, and they sat out two of the biggest booms in the city’s history I would question how sound some of the “investment” going on in SF actually is…it sounds – at best – like a bunch of amateurs.

  2. Posted by Hunter

    Another parking lot in one of the most expensive areas of town sits empty. Build baby build.

  3. Posted by Amewsed

    Good move. CitizenM hotels are more of an international brand. Kind of like the micro-unit apartment living except it is micro-hotel rooms. Lower price point than neighboring full sized big name hotels and in the same neighborhood. Better than a Yotel. There is a market for it and Yotels especially with the wave of international discount air carriers in the SF and Oakland markets bringing in more international tourists (Norwegian Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines, Level Airlines, etc.)

    I remembered when Kimpton Hotels were boutique and edgy when they first opened a few decades ago. Now, meet the new crop of hoteliers.

    • Posted by Hunter

      Agreed. One thing I don’t get is why there aren’t hip hoteliers flocking to the Mission, Castro, Hayes Valley, Dogpatch, Marina, SoMa, etc. For any major city, we have such a strange over-saturation of hotels in one five block area.

      • Posted by Notcom

        Or even to Oakland – which would seem to make particular sense if the people are actually flying into OAK; but I can see how someone flying in from Rome or Copenhagen would chose the Golden Gate (Bridge) over the Park Street (dope bascule though it may be)…or at least the hoteliers are logical in thinking that.

      • Posted by scott f

        Tourist hotels in those places are probably de-facto banned by the certainty of neighborhood opposition if not outright banned by code.

      • Posted by ChuckC

        My guess is they’re not allowed in a lot of neighborhoods. My question is why isn’t SF (a major tourist destination and inherently wealthy town) a bigger draw for newer upscale brands like Dream, Ace, Standard, etc?

        • Posted by Hunter

          Also wondered the same thing. Maybe they don’t want to compete in Union Square and everywhere else is blocking them? At least we’re getting a Virgin hotel shortly…

        • Posted by gorkem

          There is a Days Inn in middle of Hayes Valley. How cool would it be if Ace or Standard took over that building.

          • Posted by ChuckC

            Or the motor lodge (or whatever) on market in the Castro. Such a high profile location and wide lot.

      • Posted by BTinSF

        They are building hotels where they can get sites in SOMA (mainly around Yerba Buena/Moscone) but the other places named are incredibly difficult places to build multi-resident anything and especially of any size. About the only tourist lodging possible in most of those places would be B ‘n Bs. Still, there’s the ever-retro Beck’s Motor Lodge.

  4. Posted by Brooder

    South Beach seems to be seeing some new hotels such as Via and the one build at the former McDonalds.

    • Posted by Orland

      What is up with the long-ago-approved hotel for Block 1 in Mission Bay? Its supposed “imminent” groundbreaking has only been delayed about 3 years now.

  5. Posted by Franky

    Where is the re-designed version? This looks just like the previous design. Is this the right rendering?

  6. Posted by Dave

    Besides the non-Union Square hotels mentioned above, the Giant’s are building (not sure if it has broken ground) a hotel near AT&T Park. There was a proposal a while back for a 20 story hotel between Harrison and Folsom near 2nd IIRC. Also, at one time there were plans for a boutique hotel on Mission near 6th as well as another small hotel a block or so off I80 on Harrison or Bryant. Other than the Giant’s hotel, I don’t know if the other projects are still in the works. .

    Despite the major slowdown in new office and residential projects in SF, the hotel industry is an entity unto itself and may not be impacted by the slowdown – as long as vacancy rates are low which, last I read, they were/are.

  7. Posted by Brad

    I hope they scrap the rain showerheads—can’t stand those things!

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      Agreed, LOL – I’ve never understood the appeal.

  8. Posted by Frisco

    How long has this lot been vacant? Was there previously a building here?

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