A new Dutch-owned hotel chain, citizenM, is opening a 195-room Union Square hotel this fall as part of a five-hotel opening push in the U.S. — and it's a rare example of a new-build hotel in the area, on a lot that's been otherwise vacant for two decades.
As the SF Business Times reports, citizenM took over the property at 72 Ellis Street from Highgate Hotels in 2016, after 15 years in which that company was thwarted by various economic setbacks from developing the lot. Construction began on the 11-story building in April 2019, and the company expects to begin welcoming guests in October — one month after it opens its first hotel in Los Angeles.
As a brand, the 16-year-old citizenM is known for a high-tech experience, with doors that can be opened via cellphone app and iPads replacing traditional light switches. The "affordable luxury" brand based in Amsterdam took its name from the notion of "mobile citizens," and it now has 21 hotels in 14 cities across the globe including Kuala Lumpur, Zurich, London, Glasgow, New York, and Boston. Two more citizenM hotels are opening soon in Miami, as well as a new one in Washington, D.C.
Pricing at the Union Square hotel, which seems to be aimed at business travelers, will be somewhere between that of a limited- and a full-service hotel. By way of example, current nightly room rates at citizenM's Seattle hotel are between $110 and $230. They tout "humongous beds, fluffy pillows and jungle-like showers," as well as a 24-hour "canteenM" for food.
citizenM also has plans for a 218-room hotel in SoMa, at a still undisclosed location, as well as another somewhere in Silicon Valley.
Ernest Lee, the company's director for the Americas, tells the Business Times that they are cautiously optimistic that tourist and business-traveler traffic will return to SF by October. "Right now, we are highly focused on getting our Ellis Street project open," he says. "Simultaneously, we are moving as fast as we can with pre-construction of our Silicon Valley project."
SF's last splashy, newly built hotel opening was the Virgin Hotels San Francisco property, which debuted in May 2019 and shuttered with the pandemic last March. It has not reopened — and it may not, due to lawsuits that have been filed by both the property owner and a design firm involved in the building.
A newly renovated hotel, The Alton, from the Kimpton Group, opened in May at Fisherman's Wharf, in one half of the former Holiday Inn on Beach Street.