When Matt Humphreys, general manager of the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, circled the 1973 hotel in recent years, he was struck by the sweeping views of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge.
He also saw an opportunity: at the eastern tip of the triangular structure was an unnecessarily large hallway with great views of each floor of the guest room.
He realized that this was usable space in a city where there is no place to be wasted. This year, following the discovery of Humphreys, the Hyatt converted the walkways into 15 new spaces.
Each room is approximately 185 square feet, approximately 120 square feet smaller than typical Hyatt rooms, and part of a move towards smaller hotel rooms in cities with limited space.
High construction costs accelerate the pressure on the downsizing. Yotel opened this year in Mid-Market with rooms around 120 square meters. A former youth hotel at 140 Mason Street has just been converted into a new business called Found Hotel, which has 45 shared rooms, each with four to six bunk beds, from just $ 50 a night.
Large hotel companies such as Hilton and Marriott are also expanding nationwide with brands for “tiny rooms” on an area of around 150 square meters.
“We’re the kind of town where this trend makes a lot of sense,” said Humphreys. “Every square foot is valuable.”
The new Hyatt rooms have floor-to-ceiling panes of glass, selfie sticks and binoculars for photography enthusiasts. Under the bed there are drawers and luggage racks that also serve as seating.
“When I looked at the floor plans, I was nervous,” said Humphreys. But after sitting in a room he doesn’t mind, he said. “You walk in that door and the view is unparalleled.” Nightly rates start at $ 269, in the middle of hotel rates, which range from $ 179 to $ 350.
Other San Francisco property owners have converted garages and storage rooms into new apartments or built backyard cottages to meet demand in the already crowded city. Hotels with their huge atriums and common areas are prime candidates.
Rick Swig, a senior hotel consultant and president of RSBA & Associates, said the Hyatt Regency was a good candidate for a move.
“This hotel was a design masterpiece when it was built,” said Swig. “It was later seen as a waste of space.”
The hotel is part of the Embarcadero Center project, which transformed five blocks of town into what was once known for a wholesale market for products in the 1970s and 1980s.
Funded by David Rockefeller, CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank and Prudential Insurance, the center remains San Francisco’s largest four-tower office complex with a total area of 3.4 million square feet.
Boston Properties owns the four office towers and Sunstone Hotel Investors owns the Hyatt, which has more than 800 rooms and is the fifth largest hotel in the city.
The late architect John Portman designed the science-fiction-inspired hotel, the interior of which is the largest hotel lobby in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records. It appears in the 1974 Oscar-winning film Towering Inferno as part of a fictional 138-story skyscraper in San Francisco that catches fire.
In 1974 the Chronicle’s architecture critic Allan Temko gave the hotel an enthusiastic rating, describing the lobby as “the most exciting, uninhibited and overall spectacular space in the history of this insignificant city”.
Temko wrote that the lobby “seems to be on the move everywhere, purposely charged with wild, reckless energy” and attracting not only tourists but visitors from all over the Bay Area. He was less enthusiastic about the guest rooms, which he described as “motel-like”.
The lobby once had more than 100 trees and was crowned by a revolving rooftop restaurant called Equinox, but both features have been removed. The Chronicle’s urban design critic, John King, described the hotel in 2016 as a “relic of the past”.
Andrew Wolfram, principal at TEF Design, a San Francisco architecture firm, believes the hotel is still an integral part of San Francisco architecture.
“It still really worked,” he said, but he believes recent changes to modernize the lobby have made it less noticeable. After a two-year renovation in 2018, new meeting rooms, a take-away grocery store, and a renovated lobby lounge and bar have been added.
Converting hallways to rooms is a more thoughtful way to modernize the hotel, he said.
“Buildings have evolved over time. They are looking for space that has not been used well, ”said Wolfram.
Roland Li is a contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @rolandlisf