Le Rivage will stay open as a remodeling project converts it to a Westin hotel. Guests have river views from their balconies about three miles from downtown.

Le Rivage will get makeover before turning into a Westin

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 4, 2013 - 11:58 am

Sacramento's Le Rivage Hotel is about to get an expensive makeover and a prestigious national brand name. But it's uncertain if that will be enough to turn around the troubled luxury hotel.

The Westin chain confirmed Wednesday that Le Rivage will be converted into a Westin in April after getting a $3.2 million renovation. The hotel along the Sacramento River is expected to stay open during the remodel, said Nadeen Ayala, a spokeswoman for Westin parent Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Westin's presence will surely boost the hotel's fortunes, but a hospitality-industry consultant said the property will continue to fight an uphill battle because of its somewhat remote location. Le Rivage is located in the Little Pocket residential neighborhood three miles south of downtown.

"When a hotel is in a residential area, not surrounded by businesses, it's always fighting to get occupancy," said Anthony Dimond, a principal in the Sacramento office of consulting firm Horwath HTL.

Another problem with location: Dimond said guests must take a "circuitous route" from I-5 to get to the hotel.

The 101-room hotel opened in early 2008, as the economy was softening, and struggled from the outset.

Developer Bob Cook put Le Rivage into bankruptcy protection a year ago to keep from losing the hotel to OneWest Bank of Pasadena. That didn't work. The bank, which was owed $30 million, took over the hotel last May. Cook, a part owner of the Sacramento Kings, himself went bankrupt in 2011.

A partnership between two Southern California real estate companies, Brighton Management and Urban Commons, bought the hotel for $16 million in December and signaled it had made a deal with Westin.

Brighton spokesman Tom Lee said the company is pleased with the hotel's location looking out on the Sacramento River. "We don't really see it as a negative," he said.

And hospital expert David Jones said the low purchase price means it will be easier to turn a profit for the new owners. "That can be a moneymaking venture," said Jones, director of the hospitality- management program at the University of San Francisco.

Plus, the Westin brand should draw guests.

"That brings with it a national presence and reservation system, a marketing system," Jones said. "If Westin put their name on it, they must think there's something there."

Starwood already operates two hotels in Sacramento, the downtown Sheraton Grand and the Four Points by Sheraton in Natomas.

The Brighton-Urban partnership will pay for the Le Rivage renovation, Lee said.

He said Scott's Seafood Restaurant will remain a tenant at the hotel.

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