By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Although it took five long years and some tough negotiations to make his Crescent City luxury hotel a reality, Xiao Jin Yuan said it was all worth it.
"Once I made the decision back in Sept. 1997, I wanted to see it through," Yuan said yesterday from the lobby of the Hampton Inn & Suites on A Street. Now a part of the Hilton chain, the hotel is also known by its private name of Redwood Oceanfront Resort.
Yuan said yesterday that his $5 million hotel, which opened its doors to customers on Sept. 25, currently has 54 rooms available for customers. Additional rooms and a restaurant are planned later when the hotel makes an expansion to the south.
The crescent-shape building design, created by an Arcata architect who earned his degree in Paris, presented some problems.
"I liked his European design, which was not really what Hilton wanted. Hiltons have a box shape to the buildings and they wanted this hotel to have that, too," said Yuan. "But we have a view here, and the design compliments the view."
After some negotiations, Yuan said the franchise eventually gave in.
"I made the decision to come here and build it here for two reasons," said Yuan. "One is because I liked the view, but also to do something for the community. The local officials have been so supportive."
An open house Saturday night drew a large crowd, said Manager Dan Proffett.
"Between 200 and 250 people were coming through the door," said Assistant General Manager Kimberly Huyck. "There has been a lot of local support, which we appreciate very much."
The hotel at the corner of A and Front streets did have some obstacles to overcome first. There were some local concerns about losing an oceanfront view, the California Coastal Commission wanted public access to the beach, and some private interests worked against the developer, Yuan said.
"Some people just don't want competition; they think they own the community," Yuan said. Although he did not specify who the private interests were, Yuan said who it wasn't.
"Hector Brown has been really nice. He sent me a dolphin as a gift," Yuan said about the owner of Crescent City's Lighthouse Inn on Highway 101.
Yuan said the hotel had to turn on its no-vacancy sign at times during the surf competition and the Sea Cruise event, and surplus customers were referred to the Lighthouse Inn.
The owner said he was proud of the fact he used only local labor and contractors to build the facility.
"They are honest and honorable businessmen," Yuan said. "They are all local people. We employed nobody from outside the area."
In regard to local events, Yuan said he has donated facilities at the hotel and will continue to do so in the future.
"They had free use of the meeting room," he said of the surf contest. "And the Legends of the Redwoods Marathon, they will have free use, too."
The marathon organizers, from Washington, are also planning to make a documentary of the race, which is scheduled to take place next year.
"We have a mission: We want to make this hotel the center of cultural functions in the community," Yuan said. "We are part of the community now, and we are happy to contribute."
When asked if he was planning on moving closer to his only hotel, Yuan, a resident of the Bay Area, said he said he wasn't sure.
"It's up to my wife. She's the boss," he said.