Visitors to San Francisco will soon be able to stay the night in one of two hotels planned for former military bases that are now part of vast parklands on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The first is Cavallo Point -- The Lodge at the Golden Gate, scheduled to open in late May. The 142-room hotel may have one of the most enviable settings around. Located on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge, near Sausalito, it lies in a waterfront, forested glen in the shadow of one of the bridge's soaring towers.
The National Park Service awarded the $100 million project to an investment group headed by Passport Resorts. The San Francisco-based company is no stranger to hotels in beautiful settings, managing the Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur in California, Hawaii's Hotel Hana-Maui and the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.
The project is located at the former Fort Baker U.S. Army post, shut down in 2002.
Historical and contemporary
The buildings, all designated as National Historic Landmarks and built in Colonial-revival architectural style in the early 20th century, are being transformed into a luxury hotel and retreat/conference center.
Guests will have a choice of 68 rooms in the officers' quarters. Though renovations are being done, details from the past will remain -- porches, pressed-tin ceilings, fireplaces and hand-carved stairways among them.
Another 74 rooms will be located in new, two-story buildings set on higher ground above Fort Baker, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge from porches and balconies.
All of Cavallo Point's rooms will have organic bedding, flat-panel TVs, Wi-Fi and original art.
Business is expected to be divided equally between independent travelers and meetings and conference participants, according to Michael Freed, Passport Resorts' managing director.
The hotel will offer 15,000 square feet of meetings and events space, which will be used for "learning vacations" such as cooking and art classes. Another 10,000 feet of outdoor acreage in and around the former Army post's parade ground will be available for events, as well.
"There's no other place that can offer a stay in the largest urban national park in the country [the Golden Gate National Recreation Area], within walking distance of the Golden Gate Bridge and a few minutes' drive from San Francisco," Freed said. "It's hard to beat the location."
Cavallo Point will feature resort-like touches, such as a "basking" pool heated to 104 degrees, yoga sessions in a century-old chapel, bikes for use on rides to Sausalito or San Francisco and an 11,000-square-foot Healing Arts Center & Spa that offers treatments and wellness classes.
The on-site restaurant, Murray Circle, will specialize in California-French cuisine by chef Joseph Humphrey, who was awarded two Michelin stars while at the Meadowood Resort in Napa Valley last year.
Room rates will start at $225 for historic rooms and $275 for the contemporary rooms.
The second hotel on tap for local NPS land is planned on the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, in San Francisco's 1,480-acre Presidio.
The Presidio Lodge, as it is tentatively called, is expected to be constructed in the next three years alongside the Civil War-era parade ground at the Presidio's Main Post.
The lodge also will encompass nearby Pershing Hall, one of the Presidio's 496 historical landmark buildings.
The Presidio Trust, which manages the park, conducted a bidding process and selected Larkspur Hotel and Restaurants for the project last fall.
Larkspur owns and operates 23 hotels in the western U.S., including the nearby Lodge at Tiburon in Marin County.
The contract between the Presidio Trust and Larkspur has not been finalized but plans call for a boutique property of about 100 rooms, with meeting space that will enhance the meeting and event space that already exists in the Presidio, said Jody Sansord, a Presidio Trust spokeswoman.
"The lodge will be enormously popular," she said. "Imagine being able to begin your day in the middle of a national park in San Francisco, within walking distance of restaurants, walking trails and the Golden Gate Bridge."
The lodge will be the Presidio's first hotel since the Sixth Army left the base in 1994.
Since its transformation to a national park, the Presidio has become a playground for San Franciscans and an increasing number of visitors drawn to miles of new hiking and biking paths; cafes; and restaurants.
There are also hundreds of people who live in newly restored buildings or who work in the dozens of companies that have offices in the Presidio, including filmmaker George Lucas' special-effects "campus," the Letterman Digital Arts Center, which is surrounded by acres of landscaped gardens open to the public.
More on tap at the Presidio
The Presidio's current main attraction is Crissy Field, a scenic, bayside walking path in a restored natural habitat of lagoons and wetlands.
But more attractions are coming. The Walt Disney Family Museum and Library is expected to open in late 2009 in the barracks on the Main Post, which date to the early 20th century.
The facility, which will be devoted to the life and work of Walt Disney, is planned by Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller. It will house artifacts, exhibitions of animation and films and a research center for scholars.
Also in the planning stages for the Main Post is the Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio, which has been proposed by Doris and Donald Fisher, the founders of The Gap apparel chain, to house their personal art collection.
For more on Cavallo Point, call (415) 339-4700 or visit www.cavallopoint.com. For information on the Presidio Lodge, visit www.presidio.gov/trust/projects/lodge.htm.
To contact reporter Laura Del Rosso, send e-mail to [email protected].