A Defining Moment in the Design of Select-Service

The façade design for this dual-branded hotel on the bay in San Diego pays homage to San Diego’s maritime heritage by recalling the colorful signal flags used in naval operations. Image Credit: ©stephenwhalenphotography.com

There was a time when select service would have brought to mind the picture of a big stucco box sitting on a suburban street corner or just off of a highway exit. No more. Today, consumer demand is bringing select service into the urban environment. As a result, a new hotel typology—urban select service—is emerging.

The select service market segment is an important one and these savvy consumers are no longer content to sit on the sidelines in suburbia. Acknowledging a more urbane audience, site-specific design, and careful creative decisions make it possible to deliver a sophisticated urban experience at a reasonable price point.

John Portman & Associates has a long history of designing successful hotels for urban city centers. The challenge presented to us by a select service hotel was how to achieve an appropriate, contextual design solution for these economically-based projects in a city setting.

As a case in point, let’s look at the newly opened BRIC Phase One, a dual-branded hotel on the bay in San Diego that features two select service offerings—SpringHill Suites and Residence Inn. The location is not only in an urban center, but also along the waterfront—a tourist attraction. While the design for the property is true to the brands, it is anything but cookie cutter, taking full advantage of the unique location to connect and integrate into its environment.


The façade design pays homage to San Diego’s maritime heritage by recalling the colorful signal flags used in naval operations. The recesses and projections in the building relate to the room types inside. The combination of select service and extended stay offerings appeals to a diverse audience in a powerful market segment.

A collaborative process with the entire design team—including the construction manager as well as material vendors and suppliers—helped to deliver a sophisticated urban design, but on a budget. Every choice was examined to determine what was necessary and what could be eliminated to create more with less and find the best way to meet our design goals.

For instance, the choice of floor-to-ceiling glass in the guest rooms is an example of balancing cost with a higher quality aesthetic. Looking solely at the square footage, these may be considered small for a guest room, but they feel huge, and a strong connection to the local environment is formed by the outstanding views. The customer experience delivered is like no other select service hotel room.

While not all urban select service hotels can enjoy a stunning waterfront location, they can create a strong identity and deliver a superior guest experience by tying into features unique to their environment.

The new Hotel Indigo coming to Denver later this year is another example of select service expanding its reach into an urban center. The hotel is part of the Union Tower West mixed-use project set in the Lo-Do (lower downtown) area. The building’s form and orientation maximizes views of the Rocky Mountains, the city and Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Innovative façade technology optimizes energy usage and comfort through high-performance glazing that also serves to enhance views from the project.

The project interacts with the existing and planned urban context by creating a new public space at the visual termination of Wewatta and 18th Street. This public space is defined as an urban loggia and serves as a pedestrian entry court to the project that also emphasizes a linkage to the recently constructed pedestrian crossing at the new multimodal station.

The hotel contributes to the vision for its neighborhood by continuing and expanding the concepts promoted by The Commons master plan and Union Station redevelopment. The project’s hotel amenities and functions support and complement Union Tower West’s office functions, as well as the neighboring residential projects, thus strengthening the lively mixed-use community of The Commons.

These are exciting times for the select service hotel segment. As these offerings venture into urban settings, the standard for design is raised, even if the budget is not. A design team that embraces collaboration, focusing on the unique characteristics of the site and employing ingenuity, can deliver a sophisticated guest experience at an attractive price point.

About the Author
Greg Botsch serves as principal and production director of John Portman & Associates.

Caption: The façade design for this dual-branded hotel on the bay in San Diego pays homage to San Diego’s maritime heritage by recalling the colorful signal flags used in naval operations.
Image Credit: ©stephenwhalenphotography.com
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