North County’s tony L’Auberge
For this year, the biggest change is a new management company — Noble House Hotels & Resorts — which is taking over from the resort’s previous operator, Destination Hotels and Resorts. The changeover is coming several months after the Del Mar hotel changed hands late last year when Pebblebrook Hotel Trust acquired LaSalle Hotel Properties’ portfolio of upscale hotels, including the L’Auberge.
“We have 61 hotels and 45 of them are lifestyle hotels — more boutique style — so we try to partner with an operator to take advantage of the natural strengths of the hotel and that’s where we think L’Auberge should be,” said Ray Martz, chief financial officer for Pebblebrook. “That’s why we made the change in management. Noble House has a shared vision of where the property could be. They have a lot of these unique resorts and have found a unique way of positioning the resorts.”
In California, Noble House manages just seven hotels, including two in San Diego County besides L’Auberge — the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa on Mission Bay and the Kona Kai resort on Shelter Island.
As part of Pebblebrook’s goal to make the 5-acre resort even more appealing, it is looking to change up the hotel’s signature restaurant, Kitchen 1540, including its location, Martz said. One of the key objectives is to locate it in an area where it has clear views out to the water.
“We’ll re-concept the restaurant where you will have the views of the ocean so it not necessarily tucked away within four walls,” he said. “It had its day back in time but we can do so much more. Right now, you don’t have the natural views of the Pacific Coast and the beach of Del Mar as opposed to the hotel’s center courtyard.”
Planning is still in the very early stages, but in addition to the restaurant redesign, portions of the hotel lobby would be reconfigured to improve the flow and create more energy — a move, Martz said, that should also draw more locals to the resort.
“We want to make the restaurant relevant in the Del Mar community and not just for the hotel guests,” he explained. “To have a really successful venue, you have to appeal to the local neighbors. It’s about having an approachable concept, not just a place where you go for special occasions.”
Martz would not say how much Pebblebrook plans to spend on the L’Auberge changes, partly because the plans have yet to be finalized, but it will definitely be more than a couple of million dollars, he noted. The value of the L’Auberge acquisition is unknown because the hotel was acquired as part of a portfolio of properties, valued at $5.2 billion.
L’Auberge last changed hands in 2012 when LaSalle purchased it for $76.9 million. Three years earlier it underwent an extensive $26 million renovation. Pebblestone said it is contemplating some room renovations as part of its refresh of the property.
— Lori Weisberg is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune