Volume 8, Issue 77  |  September 26, 2023SubscribeAdvertise

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The countdown is on to the opening of Pendry Newport Beach…a resort the likes of which this town has not enjoyed before


Get ready to be wowed Newport Beach.

After nearly two years of planning, designing and construction, the new Pendry Newport Beach opens in exactly 10 days from now on September 25.

If you haven’t driven by it, the hotel is the former Fashion Island Hotel and long before that, the former Four Seasons. If you remember anything about those properties, you might as well forget it because the new Pendry is something completely different.

In fact, it is nothing like Newport Beach has seen before.

The countdown Gary Sherwin portrait

Click on photo for a larger image

Photos courtesy of Visit Newport Beach

Gary Sherwin

Earlier this week, I toured the new property with its owners Eagle Four principals Kevin Martin and Kory Kramer as the hotel was filled with construction workers, dozens of new employees being trained, the restaurant staff hustling glassware and hotel executives putting final touches on design pieces. It was controlled chaos, to put it mildly.

But to Martin and Kramer, this is a dream coming true and the re-emergence of an iconic property that has been completely reinvented to the tune of more than $80 million.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the 295-room hotel was closed with no immediate plans to reopen it. Rumors ran rampant in the city as to what would happen, including discussions of converting the property to condos or apartments.

After some due diligence, the Irvine Company decided that they would divest themselves of some of their hospitality assets which included not only the Fashion Island Hotel but also Hotel Irvine, which was later sold to Hyatt Hotels.

Newport Beach-based Eagle Four at that time was busy rebuilding their most recent purchase, the former Marriott Newport Beach, which is now the glorious VEA Newport Beach. They already had a lot on their hands.

But one day, Kramer and another Eagle Four partner, Rick Weiner, heard about the Irvine Company’s plans to sell the Fashion Island Hotel and came to Martin and suggested they make a bid.

The countdown two guys

(L-R) Eagle Four Partners Kory Kramer and Kevin Martin have been an influential duo in moving The Pendry Newport Beach plan forward

Martin thought about it and called Alan Fuerstman, the founder of Montage Hotels and Resorts whom he admired as an industry legend. Fuerstman created the Montage brand, and it all began with their now iconic property in Laguna Beach.

Fuerstman and his visionary son Michael had recently launched their new Montage sister brand of hotels, Pendry, which has the spirit of Montage but with a creative “new contemporary” flavor and were interested in a partnership.

They loved the idea of bringing the Pendry brand to Orange County since they already had nearby hotels in West Hollywood and San Diego. Together, Eagle Four and Montage presented their vision to the Irvine Company.

What has always set the Irvine Company apart is that while making a profit is important, so is community responsibility. Rather than sell to the highest bidder, they wanted a group that would bring a good hotel brand to town and offer a quality experience to visitors and residents. This would be much more than a money play. Good for them.

When the bids came in in 2021, there were multiple finalists. Eagle Four stood out because not only were they a local firm, but the Irvine Company loved having the Montage family in town.

Eagle Four got the nod and immediately went to work on design and function. The good news for them was Fashion Island Hotel already had good bones, as they say in the hotel industry, and would not need as much structural work as VEA. Many things from lobby floors to millwork throughout the property were of superb quality, and they didn’t need to be replaced but just refreshed up. That made the renovation not only less costly but faster.

In other areas, the hotel would be completely reimagined, including the addition of the Elwood Club, which was built where the former executive offices were located near the lobby. The 10,000-square-foot private club has probably been the buzziest part of the new hotel among locals.

The Elwood, which is a key financial part of the hotel, already has more than 200 confirmed members and hundreds more applications in process. The club is not designed to be the largest in town in terms of membership, but it may be the most exclusive.

After touring it this week, it is no doubt chic and dramatic. If you’ve ever had a chance to see a private club in London or New York, you’ll feel right at home here since it has its own pub, restaurant and its centerpiece – the cabaret – which will be the hottest evening hangout in the city. Famous comedians who are looking to try out material for smaller audiences have already expressed interest in performing there, and it will also feature live music on most nights.

The hotel will have a very design-forward vibe with several signature art installations throughout the property and since it was created as a “Garden Hotel,” that means it has lots and lots of greenery. The pool area has been completely rebuilt with cabanas that will remind many people of the vibe at the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel where people sit around the pool and do business all day.

But for Martin, Kramer and Weiner, the approaching hotel opening date is a culmination of a lot of work and orchestration. To pull the deal together and get it to the finish line in about two years is exceptionally fast, especially if you want a quality product that is designed to impress.

And unlike most owners, they are hands-on. This week, the entire Eagle Four team was on site and working with the construction team and hotel executives to make final decisions on a host of issues.

Indeed, Eagle Four is way more than just the investors in the property, and they obviously sweat the details. They are committed to creating a product the community can truly take pride in.

But all of this doesn’t even address what will really make the hotel stand out when it opens. That will be the extensive landmark dining and the elevated food, something I will write about next week. Stay tuned because it will be tasty.

Gary Sherwin is President & CEO of Visit Newport Beach and Newport Beach & Company.

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