A plan to convert the now-vacant Hotel Marshall in downtown Sacramento into a 10-story Hyatt Place hotel received a generally warm response from the city’s preservation commission on Wednesday.
However, some commission members and historians encouraged the developers to do more to preserve the Marshall’s history and said the plans reflect a growing trend of builders merely keeping a historic building’s exterior facade while gutting the interior.
“It isn’t one wall or the other that makes a building historic, it’s the building as a whole,” said William Burg, president of the Sacramento Old City Association.
Developers Guneet Bajwa and Peter Noack are planning to build a new hotel but preserve the Marshall’s brick and terra cotta facades facing Seventh and L streets. The hotel would have 160 rooms, meeting space and ground floor retail. It is scheduled to be completed by next year, when the new downtown Kings arena opens less than a block away, the developers told the preservation commission.
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Bajwa said the Marshall in its current shape is “functionally obsolete” and that the interior would need to be gutted to make the project economically feasible. Before its recent closure, the once-stylish hotel served as a residential hotel for a group of poor tenants, many of whom struggled with mental illness and had spent time in prison.
“This was a functional building in 1911,” said Noack, the building’s owner. “This is not a functional building today.”
Burg and others had positive things to say about the proposal. Burg liked the modern design of the new hotel tower, which also would replace the former Jade Hotel next to the Marshall.
“The new and old respect each other and meld quite well,” said preservation commission member Jon Marshack.
But Marshack, Burg and others said the plans should not be considered an attempt to preserve the Marshall, which is listed as a city landmark. Instead, they used the term “facadism,” a design term used to describe projects in which a historic building’s exterior is preserved while the interior is replaced. They encouraged the developers to try to maintain remnants of the Marshall, including interior fixtures and the hotel’s entrance.
“The concern philosophically (with facadism) is that we’re creating a kind of Disneyland,” said preservation commissioner Matthew Piner. “We maintain the facade, the walls to the street, but we lose the history of the buildings themselves.”
Burg said the Marshall is a historically significant building in Sacramento. It was opened as the Hotel Clayton in 1911 and a jazz club inside hosted world-renowned acts such as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong.
Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.