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First Hill’s grand Sorrento Hotel getting hip Pike/Pine-style makeover

(Image: The Sorrento)

(Image: The Sorrento)

Sorrento-17Just a few blocks from the rambunctious nightlife of Broadway Pike/Pine, the Sorrento Hotel and its restaurant and bar have quietly persisted for nearly a century as one of the few remnants of Seattle’s original cocktail culture. Now the family behind the hotel is seeking to apply some of the the Ace Hotel “casual luxury” recipe to breathe new life into the First Hill gem.

The Sorrento has announced that the Seattle-based firm Magnetic/ERV is taking over management of the 76-room hotel and plans to start its revamp work early next year. Magnetic/ERV is a hospitality management company with staff that have worked on the Palm Springs Ace Hotel and a handful of other boutique hotels around the country.

Cori Ready, a Seattle event designer that’s working with the Magnetic/ERV, told CHS the management group is still in the early planning stages of the overhaul. “We want to make it more like a culture hub,” Ready said.

(Image: The Sorrento)

(Image: The Sorrento)

Ready said the team will start guest room facelifts sometime next year, aiming for a Spring 2015 completion. The team will also re-conceptualize The Hunt Room restaurant and Fireside Room lounge, as well as give the building’s unique Madison-facing courtyard a new look.

It won’t be the only icon of First Hill getting a facelift. CHS reported in October that the much-loved Town Hall will be undergoing a serious set of upgrades in advance of its 100th anniversary in 2016. Meanwhile, there are still no new hotel facilities planned for the First Hill or Capitol Hill area despite the opportunity some developers claim would lie in making the facilities easier to build in the area.

Sometimes off the radar to Capitol Hill’s under-40 crowd, The Hunt Room’s steak and seafood fare has been a business lunch and date night destination for 30 years. The Fireside Room frequently hosts bands, something that may expand under the new management. The Sorrento is also one of the few all-inclusive wedding spots around Capitol Hill/First Hill and has a impressive top-floor patio.

The Sorrento is owned by Capitol Hill preservation-focused developer Michael Malone, who purchased he hotel in 1981. Malone’s Hunters Capital is behind Pike/Pine auto-row era projects at the Dunn Automotive and the Coleman Automotive buildings.

In 2013, CHS talked with Malone about the state of the business around the hotel he purchased in the ’80s and sunk more than $4.5 million into for a renovation restoring “the elegance and charm that once drew well-to-do families such as the Guggenheims and Vanderbilts”

“The place was a dive,” said Malone, who still cringes at the puka shell wallboard that covered up the distinctive Honduran mahogany panels in the Fireside Room. “It was a pimpy Trader Vic’s.”

As Sorrento prepares for its new chapter, one thing that definitely won’t change is its name. “We want to celebrate it as an icon of Seattle,” Redi said.Sorrento-16

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23 thoughts on “First Hill’s grand Sorrento Hotel getting hip Pike/Pine-style makeover

  1. I hope “re-conceptualize” doesn’t mean they are going to remove the beautiful wood paneling and the lovely fireplace in the Fireside Room. Those are things that can’t be replaced once they are gone. We seem to be going through a phase where corrugated metal and exposed ductwork are all the rage. Those are fine design gimmicks for new buildings, but we have so few old buildings in good condition that it doesn’t make sense to try to make them look modern as well. The Sorrento is one of the great old buildings where the public can go and enjoy the beauty for the price of a cocktail. I agree that the carpet and furniture are a little frumpy, and those could easily be replaced at any time.

  2. Sad. The Hunt Club was redone some years ago and it has never been the same. I’m for redo, just not like Palm Springs or South Beach. Geez.

  3. Hopefully when they say Ace Hotel, its at least like the Ace Hotel in Portland where they did quite well preserve all of the historic elements inside and out of the circa 1900 building (which was more of an ordinary old hotel) but used neo-mid century modern furniture and hipster graphics and art in the rooms. Somehow though I don’t see this matching well with this much grander and formal historic hotel where the interior especially chandeliers and furnishings I would think would want to be in the same formal character.

    Ace Hotel Portland Lobby:

  4. Every time I hear someone say they are going to give a place a “hip new look” my brain auto translates to “We are going to remove all personality from the place”. That really seems to be what they usually do.

  5. I have known the Sorrento since 1989. It was the first hotel at which we stayed before we moved to the Seattle area. I treasure the Fireside Lounge. I have frequently enjoyed the jazz ensembles on Fridays and Saturdays. I love the wood paneling and the fireplace. It would be a mistake to change the ambience of this room. Fresh carpet and furniture of the original era would be appropriate, but modern furnishings would be a mistake. It would also be a mistake to change the entertainment to loud rock music. I experienced just that a few weeks ago, and the entertainment took over; conversation was impossible. The exterior landscaping is iconic to the hotel. The palm trees, although not indigenous, are delightful. Elegance is the true hallmark of this legendary, historic hotel. Please do not ruin it with a “remuddle.” Freshen it, replace worn with new, but ensure quality furnishings that enhance the elegance. If hip is the goal, then choose elegance, which never goes out of fashion.

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  7. What might be hip and updated in one decade, as those once hip and young, gain the years and changed circumstances which come within a decade–what was once young, hip and updated becomes another architectural example of, “what were they thinking when they did this?”. Those faux Mediterranean or Don the Beachcomber interiors which once were the norm in many apartment and hotel lobbies, in a Seattle of the mid fifties—what interior decorator was channeling their inner Don Ho and what developer thought that the climate of Puget Sound was the perfect backdrop to launch one or more of those bombs?

  8. I’d hate to loose more historical space in this city, hopefully they’ll just clean it up, make it more authentic to the original time period and then just market the history well to the city and surrounding neighborhood to bring in more business, not turn it into some typical and uninteresting clone.

    Can we petition the owners?

  9. don’t. screw. it. up. seattle has enough “HIP” places. the sorrento is a true classic; a rare historic seattle treasure. and c’mon — there ARE ways of preserving classic beauty without destroying integrity for a trendy (and inevitably not-so-hip) facelift. shudder.

  10. The possibilities are endless without making drastic changes. The Sorrento Hotel is a world in motion. Adding to what is already there with strategic enhancement goes a long way. So does excellent service. You just never know what is going on at the Sorrento as evidenced by my own book featuring the Sorrento Hotel. You can find out more by looking up “A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories.”

    Consider your web presence too. Give people enough ways to hook into the Sorrento Hotel lifestyle and beautiful things happen. They already are and will continue to flourish, I’m sure.

  11. The only thing missing from the above comments is, “Get off my lawn!” Does anyone with a positive perspective on life every comment anymore. What a bunch of crabcakes. Ya’ll need to get a life if you are that concerned about an old hotel simply trying to invest in some improvements.

  12. Upgrade, don’t change. A good example is the cost incurred in upgrading the train stations back to their original condition to eliminate the awful modernization of the 50’s. The paneling and fireplace should stay!

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  14. That’s the U.S. , it seems like we don’t give a shit about old buildings and history, out with old, in with the new, that’s why other countries say we have no culture

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