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Major hotel offers downtown San Jose economic boost, jobs and meeting center

SAN JOSE — An iconic San Jose hotel that closed for more than a year is poised to once again become an economic spark plug, job creator and hub for business meetings, according to managers and leaders.

Signia by Hilton rolled out the welcome mat with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday evening to officially mark the reopening of the former Fairmont hotel, which was forced into bankruptcy and a coronavirus-related closure but is now set to be again a focal point for the vitality economy.

The reopening also symbolizes the rebirth of downtown San Jose, in the eyes of San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

The coronavirus-related economic tremors have hit downtown, which is just beginning to recover.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, center, along with community leaders and hotel executives, participate in a ribbon cutting for Signia by Hilton during the hotel’s grand opening celebration in downtown San José.

“This city can be reborn and rise above the adversities of our time,” Liccardo said at the ceremony. “This hotel supports our faith in the resurrection of our city.”

The hotel closed in March 2021 and reopened in April this year, a closure that forced workers out of their jobs at the old Fairmont. Now the jobs are coming back to the hotel as it ramps up operations.

“We have over 100 people working here right now,” Jimmy Sarfraz, general manager of Signia by Hilton San Jose, said in an interview. “Our union partners have been very helpful in getting our team members back to work.”

Guests mingled in the lobby on Wednesday night, a welcome counterpoint to months of inactivity as the hotel battled bankruptcy proceedings to reorganize and reorganize its shattered finances.

President and CEO of Eagle Canyon Capital and owner of Signia by Hilton, Sam Hirbod is pictured during the official grand opening ceremony and grand opening of the Signia by Hilton hotel in downtown San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Josie Lepe)
Sam Hirbod, principal owner of the Signia by Hilton San Jose hotel.

“It’s great to see a room full of people having fun and celebrating and embracing human connection again,” said Catherine Hendricks, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing.

Guided by Sam Hirbod, the hotel’s principal owner, the accommodation complex underwent a dramatic refurbishment in early 2021 that transformed the look of the main gathering areas.

“I wanted to reposition this hotel so that the passion, the faith that we have in this city is manifested in a spirit of hospitality,” said Hirbod. “Our goal is to offer the best in hospitality.”

The 805-room hotel consists of two towers, and its management has placed guests in the hotel’s south tower, the smaller of the two towers. The south tower has 264 rooms while the north tower has 541 rooms. Every room in the North Tower is being renovated and upgraded.

A guest converses in the newly remodeled lounge bar in the center of the hotel during the official grand opening ceremony for the Signia by Hilton hotel in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 18, 2022. ( Photo by Josie Lepe)
Guests gather and converse in the renovated lobby of the newly opened Signia by Hilton hotel at 170 S Market St in downtown San Jose.

“Rooms in the North Tower will come online gradually throughout the year,” Sarfraz said.

As upgrades are completed, rooms in the North Tower are expected to reopen floor by floor.

More jobs are expected to be added to the hotel’s payroll as rooms, restaurants and amenities such as the pool and cabana section reopen.

“The past two years have been extremely difficult for our downtown area,” Councilman Raul Peralez said. “It’s a huge shot in the arm.”

The onset of the pandemic drove out business and leisure travelers and devastated the global hospitality and travel industries.

“Opening up for us makes a statement to the world, a statement to California that meetings are back,” said Gary Steffen, Hilton’s full-service global brand manager. “Groups and meetings are back.”

The coronavirus has destroyed business travel in particular. Hilton executives who attended the meeting said they saw signs of recovery.

“We’re starting to see more demand from our corporate group segment and our individual business travelers,” said Keith Clampet, senior vice president of hotel operations at Hilton Worldwide. “Growth is really starting to take off.”

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