EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include quotes from Leucadia business owners and North County residents about the luxury hotel project.
ENCINITAS — A luxury hotel three decades in the making will soon replace the boarded-up Cabo Grill & Cantina on its bluff-top perch overlooking South Ponto Beach near the intersection of North Coast Highway and La Costa Ave in Leucadia.
Fenway Capital Advisors and JMI Realty, which acquired the 4.3-acre site in 2017, began construction earlier this month of the $110-million project tentatively called the “Encinitas Beach Hotel.”
The sprawling 226,000-square-foot boutique resort is scheduled for completion in 2021.
The project is headed up by longtime North County residents, Fenway Managing Partner Larry Jackel and JMI Realty CEO John Kratzer, who have expressed their desire to create a luxury experience while preserving the feeling and funk of Leucadia.
“When we thought of the theme and feeling of the hotel, what came to mind is ‘barefoot luxury,’” Jackel said. “It’s not stuffy, it’s laidback and relaxed — the feeling you get when you’re in the Leucadia area.”
According to Jackel and Kratzer, research and development is ongoing.
An important part of that process has been conversations with members of Leucadia 101 Main Street Association and longtime Leucadia business owners Paul Ecke III and Fred Caldwell.
“We’ve met with a lot of locals who own shops and who’ve been around for generations,” Jackel said. “The thing we continue to hear from everybody is, ‘what can you do to make this authentic and vintage to Leucadia?’ We are open ears to all those things and excited to be able to do something luxurious and authentic.”
The project’s opening phase will feature a massive sand replenishment program, returning an estimated 45,000 cubic yards of sand to the city’s beaches.
The sand is anticipated to be excavated later this week and will continue through the end of February, according to Assistant City Manager Mark Delin.
“’The sand is a great match for Encinitas beaches,” Delin said. “(It’s) the same sandstone that has nourished the city’s beaches for years.”
The proposal has overcome numerous regulatory hurdles over the years, receiving necessary approvals from the City Council, California Coastal Commission and California State Parks, according to the project website.
Plans for the ambitious hotel, which were originally submitted in 1989 to the city of Encinitas as a companion development for La Costa Resort & Spa, include a main restaurant with a terrace and lounge, a bicycle-friendly café along North Coast Highway, an outdoor bar, a public spa, a fitness center for guests, meeting spaces, three wedding venues and a publicly accessible staircase from bluff to beach.
As for its location on the Encinitas-Carlsbad border, one of the major selling points for future customers will be 124 rooms with unimpeded views of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent Batiquitos Lagoon.
The goal is to provide a gorgeous view while blending in with the local landscape — authentic and dynamic, but subtle.
“The way the hotel sits on the bluff, from an architectural perspective, we want it to look like the bluff grew up around it,” Kratzer said. “’The exterior of the building is intended to reflect the colors that exist in the environment. The building materials themselves will be predominantly wood, rock and materials that feel indigenous to the area.”
The hotel will create an estimated 100-plus new staff jobs, another significant benefit to the local economy.
As for the name, “Encinitas Beach Hotel,” well, it’s not set in stone.
“We’ll take suggestions,” Kratzer said. “But to be honest, we want to go through the (immersion process) first before we name the hotel.”
Here’s what neighboring Leucadia business owners and residents are saying about the project:
“I think it’s a positive thing for business. As a resident I’m not a big fan. It was a great space for public use. It will bring more traffic to an already trafficked area.” — Ken Schulenvurg, owner Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream
“Dumping mud and sewer pipes, asphalt and cement directly into the ocean for the currents to carry north to the South Carlsbad state beach is wrong. I hope this eco resort will take long term responsibility for what they have done and continually clean up the debris from the beaches.” — Robin Purcell , South Carlsbad Resident
“I think it’s great for business. It’s a great location and will bring a lot of revenue for the city.” — Todd Laird , owner O’ Hurleys Beach Bar