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New management takes over renovations of Nevada County’s iconic Holbrooke, National hotels

Grass Valley's Holbrooke Hotel will be closed for renovation starting Feb. 22.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

The two iconic hotels of Nevada County — Grass Valley’s Holbrooke and the National Exchange Hotel in Nevada City — will undergo one more metamorphosis, as a new management company has stepped in to oversee the massive renovation project.

As part of the changeover, the Holbrooke, which initially was slated to remain open for business after a short shutdown last fall, will close on Feb. 12 for an unspecified length of time.

Santa Barbara-based Acme Hospitality now will head up the renovations, said Erin Lewis, who is handling outreach for the project.

Acme Hospitality has developed a number of restaurants in partnership with Eastern Real Estate, the owner of both properties, Lewis said. It will manage all aspects of the hotel projects, from demolition and construction to design and concepts for hotel spaces and all associated restaurant, bar and event spaces.

Sherry Villanueva, the managing partner of Acme Hospitality, has opened and managed eight properties with Eastern Real Estate, Lewis said, adding, “She has a good working relationship with them.”

Jordan Fife, who was described as the managing partner of the National Exchange Hotel Company at the time of the purchase, will no longer be involved in the renovations of the Holbrooke and the National.

“Jordan Fife is managing acquisitions of these and other heritage hotels in need of rescue,” Lewis said. “As (this) project enters the second phase, (he) will be moving on using his considerable talents to focus on property acquisitions in other small towns around the country.”

‘Cosmetic updates’ for Holbrooke

The decision to shutter the Holbrooke temporarily was made so that upgrades could be made more efficiently, said Erin Lewis, who is handling outreach for the project.

“The updates at the Holbrooke are cosmetic, but they touch nearly every surface — which would likely lead to a less than stellar experience for both restaurant and bar clientele as well as hotel patrons,” Lewis said. “Weathering the temporary closure will result in a faster renovation and a better payoff in terms of a grand reopening.”

Plus, she added, “Who doesn’t love a makeover reveal?”

So far, Lewis said, someone from Acme Hospitality has been in Nevada County weekly, project-managing the hotel designs, and “concepting out” the restaurant and bar spaces.

“Eventually there will be more people on the ground,” she said. “It will be an awesome opportunity for locals to get some intensive fine dining and hospitality training.”

Lewis noted that Acme Hospitality is committed to putting together a team of local designers, architects, contractors and craftsmen. Nunninck Construction and Sierra Foothills Construction, both from Grass Valley, are working on the Holbrooke project. And at the National, which has been shuttered for a year now, work has been led by contractors including DC Tile, DMCE Inc., Guy & Co., Maliszewski Construction, Mountain Electrical Construction and Sean Thompson.

Lewis would not be specific about the planned renovations at the Holbrooke, other that to say the intent is to “refresh the property in a respectful, timeless manner.”

She also did not want to commit to a reopening date, although it reportedly could be within a few months.

But plans are afoot to have “pop-ups” in the outdoor spaces to coincide with community events.

And a major “estate sale” similar to the one held last year at the National has been scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, with proceeds to benefit Yuba River Charter School. There then will be a send-off party from 4-6 p.m. with music provided by Ragged but Right and food and wine from the Holbrooke team.

National reopening up in air

Specifics are also few for the long-delayed reopening of Nevada City’s National Hotel. Initially slated to be open by last fall, some time-consuming structural issues caused unforeseen delays, Lewis said.

“The National, anyone who had been in there knew … it was a pretty beefy project and did not (have) a realistic time line,” she said. “It’s important to the developer these projects are done really, really well.”

Demolition is just finishing up and the team is currently rebuilding the infrastructure.

“We don’t want to give any expectation of a reopen date until that date feels like a realistic target,” Lewis said. “It’s really important not to break trust with the community. We do not want to make any promises that set up the community for disappointment.”

Many of the design decisions alluded to in previous articles will not carry over, such as the plan to move the restaurant upstairs into the former lobby area, she said.

“Good design is a dynamic, ever-changing process, but this is particularly true of these historic properties,” Lewis said. “Many of the original plans … have been modified in the natural course of responding to the unique characteristics and functionality of the hotel. So, for example, while you can expect striking wallpaper to play a major role in the design, many of the other specific design concepts outlined by Jordan Fife have changed.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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