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Civic leaders tour one of the apartments in the remodeled Stockton Hotel. The mission revival-style hotel - which had no parking - went into decline with the advent of the auto. It was boarded up for more than a decade until financial incentives helped lure a developer.

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Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

A landmark reclaimed

Stockton Hotel to reopen after $28 million makeover

By Cheryl Miller -- Bee Correspondent
Published 2:15 am PST Sunday, December 19, 2004

STOCKTON - The Hotel Stockton, a once-posh Central Valley inn that deteriorated over the years into a vacant, block-long eyesore, reopens next month with a fresh look and a new mission of housing the city's poor and elderly.

Sacramento developer Cyrus Youssefi last week offered dignitaries an early look at the results of the building's $28 million makeover.

"If 2 1/2 years ago you had told me this was going to be the scope of the work, I don't know what I would have done," Youssefi said as he stood in the refurbished two-story lobby. "But I like challenges."

Youssefi and project architect Mike Malinowski are the same team that is rehabilitating the historic Globe Mills complex in Sacramento's Alkali Flat.

The Hotel Stockton is a cornerstone of Stockton's plans to spruce up a downtown landscape historically noted for single-occupancy hotels, vacant buildings and sidewalks that stand empty after 5 p.m.

"This is something that for 100 years, people knew they were in Stockton when they saw the distinctive Hotel Stockton," said Steve Pinkerton, the city's housing and redevelopment director. "Now with the housing upstairs, we'll have people downtown 24 hours a day, and with the retail and restaurant on the first floor, we'll be expanding the entertainment district."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel Stockton was built in 1910 after local merchants raised $500,000 for its construction. Store owners feared that, without a large-scale hotel, tourists and businessmen would bypass Stockton for more accommodating Central Valley cities.

When the mission revival-style hotel opened, guests arriving on trains and Delta steamers could rent one of 200 private-bath guest rooms for $2 a night. A third-floor terrace allowed the well-heeled and high school prom-goers to spend warm summer nights mingling around a stately fountain while the sun set over Mount Diablo. The fifth floor included a suite of showrooms where traveling salesmen could display their goods.

Americans' passion for cars proved the hotel's death knell. The high-rise had no parking lot, and potential guests turned increasingly to freeway-accessible motels and lodges. Ownership changed hands several times. San Joaquin County housed its welfare offices there until 1992, but various renovation plans failed over the years. The building stood empty and boarded-up for more than a decade.

In March 2002, Stockton officials and Youssefi's development group struck a deal to convert the hotel into apartments and retail space with a financing package that includes $15 million in affordable housing tax credits and city subsidies of more than $7 million.

The hotel's historic designation forced designers to retain the building's architectural style while upgrading the structure to meet modern-day safety codes.

Crews removed 100,000 tiles from the leaky roof, re-formed them, hammered out any dents, stripped them of paint, refurbished them and replaced them over a one-of-a-kind waterproof membrane project architect Malinowski created.

Construction workers also removed, refinished and reinstalled all 745 windows to meet historic specifications. And 60 parking spaces have been added to what was once the basement.

Malinowski called the project "bigger, tougher, meaner and badder" than he originally envisioned. "But it's also more exhilarating."

The hotel's ground floor has been set aside for shops and a restaurant. Sacramento eatery Paragary's has already signed a letter of intent with the retail managers, although any lease deal would likely include a significant subsidy from the city.

Paragary's or another restaurateur will operate banquet facilities on the restored third-floor terrace, redevelopment director Pinkerton said.

The nearly finished project includes 96 studios and 60 one-bedroom apartments. Rent will run roughly half of Stockton's market rate, and qualified tenants can earn no more than 45 percent of the area's median income. Youssefi said he has already compiled a waiting list of 205 potential residents.

The man likely to be the first tenant is already familiar with the layout, Youssefi said. He was once a bellboy for the Hotel Stockton.

The Stockton Hotel, built in 1910, is the cornerstone of the city's  revival. The refurbished hotel has 96 studios and 60 one-bedroom units for elderly and low-income tenants. A restaurant and shops are also planned. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton


Civic leaders enjoy the third-floor terrace. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

Sacramento developer Cyrus Youssefi beams as local officials tour the project. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, had to be upgraded to comply with modern codes while retaining its historical integrity. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

Stockton's former Deputy City Manager Roger Storey, left, and his wife, Phoebe, tour the Stockton Hotel. The restoration, partly subsidized by the city, included removing, cleaning, repairing and replacing 100,000 roof tiles - as well as removing, refinishing and replacing 745 windows to historic standards. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton