A Trio of Hotels

A trio of hotels planned for Liberty Station

Posted: November 4th, 2016 | Art on the LandColumnistsFeatured | No Comments

By Delle Willett | Art on the Land

East Hotels at Liberty Station is a trio of new hotels going in along Harbor Drive on the former site of Navy recruit barracks, where most recently Wally Park operated. The three hotels will share a common entrance off of Harbor Drive.

This is the first Liberty Station development to be located on the east side of the boat channel that connects to the north San Diego Bay. The site looks across the channel to the shops, restaurants and hotels on the west side, and is adjacent to Spanish Landing Park along Harbor Drive.

The hotels planned include the 181-room Hampton Inn & Suites; the 247-room Embassy Suites; and 222-room Towne Place Suites, each serving different traveler needs, from short business stays to extended family vacations.


Hampton Inn & Suites will target the “Road Warrior” visitor. In an atmosphere that’s aviation inspired, visitors can get things done with speed and efficiency in aviator style.

Embassy Suites, with a military heritage theme, will target the smart and savvy traveler.

Towne Place is a Marriott-owned, extended-stay hotel for the DIY traveler. It will offer a home-away-from-home with a naval influence, a nautical aesthetic and NTC references.

“Travelers will be welcomed to enjoy the San Diego experience: coastal waters, cool ocean breezes, palm trees swaying in the wind, our world-famous perfect weather, and the crisp clean smell of saltwater, while discovering the plentiful amenities available to all in the area,” said Chris Langdon, landscape architect associate at KTU+A Landscape Architecture of San Diego.

As lead landscape architects on the project, KTU+A included Integration Design Studio (IDS) on their team to assist in the design portion of the project, bringing additional brand hotel experience to the team.

Featured at the main arrival court is a large-scale boat fountain, evocative of San Diego’s maritime culture. The sustainable-water feature utilizes safe air-conditioning condensate derived from hotel operations.

“We wanted to create a unique ‘wow factor’ upon guest arrival, from the streetscape along Harbor Drive, to the main arrival auto court,” said Kurt Carlson, a landscape architect principal at KTU+A.

KTU+A also worked with Integration Design Studios of San Diego and Degen & Degen Architecture and Interior Design of Seattle, Washington, to knit the three hotels into a common environment with the goal of creating a stunning San Diego experience for guests, and yet satisfy all the environmental, public-access and public-amenity goals of the California Coastal Commission. Connecting to public transit and other forms of mobility was also important.

The three firms collaborated to create seamless indoor/outdoor relationships; for example, guests in each hotel lobby are visually connected to the outdoors, where the landscaping is carefully orchestrated to maximize the guest’s experience of San Diego.

“With us being located in Seattle and both landscape architects KTU+A and Integration Design Studio in San Diego, we relied heavily on [web-based] meetings for the bulk of the coordination, but during the design concept we had multiple in-person charrettes at both locations to get everyone’s visions on paper,” said Chris Miller, project manager, architect and associate principal at Degen & Degen.

“We designed a landscape that provides the carefree, laid-back experience that visitors anticipate when visiting San Diego,” Carlson added. “Tying into the story of Liberty Station, the landscape uses materials, colors and themes expressing the nautical aspects of the area, as well as the U.S. Navy heritage.”

As always, projects have their challenges.

For example, the city requires a large amount of parking per hotel, therefore mitigating the impact of cars and creating a pedestrian-friendly site was a major challenge; but creating an identifiable, highly functional pedestrian circulation system was important to the scope of the project.

One solution is a foot bridge that will provide full access for pedestrians and bike riders to Liberty Station, and a multi-use path that will provide easy access to Spanish Landing Park and Harbor Island underneath Harbor Drive, without the need to get in a car.

“The main challenge of the project was getting the site to drain on the relatively flat site while collecting into strategically placed bio-retention basins throughout the 14 acres by the civil team of Rick Engineering,” Miller said.

A high water table is often a concern for construction, as it can result in groundwater seeping into the building foundations, causing property damage and potentially undermining structures. Usually sites with a high water table require underground pipes to keep the structure dry. Once the drainage system is installed, the site can be landscaped and the system isn’t visible.

Working with saline aspects of site soils, the KTU+A landscape team selected plantings that expressed the California coastal experience and were not only attractive but also salt-tolerant. The materials will need to withstand marine influences over a long period of time and withstand the salt water when the tide comes in and fills it up from below.

Plantings that provide shade and allow for recreation in a park-like setting were also specified.

As prime landscape architects, KTU+A has completed the construction drawings and are currently doing all the site observation of construction.

The Team:

Client: InterMountain Management, LLC and The McMillin Companies
Architect: Degen & Degen Architecture and Interior Design
Client project manager consultant: Martin “Dusty” Ucker, AIA
Landscape architects: KTU+A Landscape Architects and Integration Design Studio

—Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at dellewillett@gmail.com.

Scott Andrews