SAN FRANCISCO -- The Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental, one of this city's Nob Hill grandame hotels, underwent a $50 million face-lift that will keep it in competition with its worthy rivals.

"It's basically a new hotel created within old walls," said Sandor Stangl, general manager and regional vice president of operations for the western U.S. for Inter-Continental and Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, a division of Bass Hotels and Resorts.

On a tour of the hotel recently, Stangl described how, in the past year, Inter-Continental removed from service 200 rooms at a time to be gutted and redecorated.

The entire project, including the renovation of lobby and public areas, was expected to be finished at press time, although a construction workers' strike is wreaking havoc with the schedule.

The new rooms are impressive, with decor in rich, elegant colors. The bathrooms were reconfigured, expanded and given a sumptuous lining of Spanish granite and Italian marble.

In the course of the renovation, the hotel reduced the number of guest rooms from 390 to 380 because several rooms were combined to create new suites on the top three floors of the hotel.

The top floor was gutted, and two luxurious, two-bedroom, 3,200-square-foot suites -- selling for $3,000 and $3,500 per night -- were created.

New one-bedroom suites are also lavish on two other top floors. Some feature airy sitting areas in what were formerly outdoor terraces.

The terraces have been transformed into glass-enclosed patios, offering awe-inspiring views of the city and bay.

All suites have whirlpool baths, but some have tubs that are set right next to large windows with panoramic views.

And some suites have formal dining rooms and fireplaces. Under new rack rates that went into effect Oct. 1, prices for suites range from $610 to $1,600 per night; standard rooms start at $350.

Stangl said there was much attention given to installing the latest technology capabilities in the rooms. Each will have three ways to access the Internet: through a standard dataport, through a high-speed connection and through a graphical user interface on the in-room televisions.

There are new air-conditioning systems and heating systems in each room, with panels that allow guests to control the temperature, call for housekeeping service or trigger a "do not disturb" button.

Stangl said the hotel, which last underwent a renovation in 1988, needed to upgrade its decor to keep up with the times, particularly in today's booming economy that has created a new generation of affluent and discriminating travelers.

Contact the hotel at (415) 392-3434 or (800) 662-4455. The hotel's Web site, which includes booking capability for agents, is at www.markhopkins.net.

Grand hotels flourish in city by the bay

SAN FRANCISCO -- Many of the city's other grand hotels, such as the Fairmont and the Westin St. Francis, have undergone major renovations in the last couple of years.

Meanwhile, other luxury properties, such as the Clift, which now is part of the Ian Schrager chain, also are undergoing facelifts.

In addition, two high-end properties will be added to San Francisco's room inventory. Under construction is a Four Seasons Hotel, which is slated for completion in early 2001.

Starwood recently said it plans to build a St. Regis, its most high-end brand, near Moscone Center.

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