The Radisson Blu Hotel is Anaheim’s Four Diamond in the rough
Stunning skyline views of the Anaheim Resort are offered from the rooftop heights of the Radisson Blu, where guests can enjoy fine dining. All of the resort’s iconic sights, from the top of the Matterhorn bobsleighs to the domed arena at the Anaheim Convention Center, shape the atmospheric vibe, accentuated by the famous Disneyland fireworks display every night.
The panorama is part of the hotel’s ambitious, even daring, vision.
âOur goal was to turn this rooftop into the best rooftop in Orange County,â said Steve Lindburg, general manager of Radisson Blu Anaheim, from his perch. âPart of that is the location and part of the way the facility is designed. “
The BluSky Restaurant and Bar, which serves Basque cuisine on the rooftop, is just one of the amenities that helped the 12-story, 326-room hotel achieve the coveted Four Diamond designation from the AAA last month.
It’s one of five such distinguished hotels in the city, but the Radisson Blu is the only one towering across the 5 Freeway, away from the official Anaheim Resort limits. When the developers inaugurated the land in 2018, a ceremonial shovel dipped into the ground of a strange triangular-shaped piece of land that had remained unused for years.
âIt was a so-called ‘leftover parcel’ that the city inherited from Caltrans,â said Mike Lyster, spokesperson for Anaheim. âIt sat empty for two decades. The developers looked at the plot, but it has always proven difficult to develop due to its shape and relatively small size.
But the plot that other developers refused has become the cornerstone of the Radisson Blu on its way to accomplishing its Four Diamond feat.
âEveryone was saying the challenge would be for us to be on the wrong side of the freeway,â Lindburg said. âA lot of our thinking before opening was whether this would be a problem and, if so, how to deal with it. Frankly, that hasn’t been a problem.
Lindburg worked at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis before joining the Anaheim team in December 2019. He brought with him 36 years of hospitality management experience.
âWe know that one of our challenges is that we are a Radisson Blu and no one knows what it is,â he said. âWe were the fourth to open in the United States. We have the amenities and facilities to represent an upscale hotel, but no one really knows who we are. “
Anaheim and anyone who visits now has the opportunity to learn as the city is home to the first Radisson Blu on the West Coast. The hotel opened briefly amid the pandemic and ahead of schedule in November 2020. It closed for several months before reopening again in April, just in time for Disneyland’s long-awaited return.
As guests walk through the main lobby, the subtle and overt Disney tributes aren’t hard to miss. Aesthetics throughout the hotel paint a narrative portrait of light and dark. A trio of Star Wars stormtroopers strike a pose at a prime stop for Instagram photos. Framed collections of Disney Lego minifigures are suspended by elevators.
The seventh-floor hallway rug is a canvas of colorful brushstrokes paying homage to “Fantasia,” and a ground-level pool is shaped like a hidden Mickey from above.
When the Radisson Blu first opened in earnest this spring, tourists slowly arrived to enjoy its aesthetics and early amenities until occupancy rates exploded in July. As part of its cutting edge business vision, the hotel is courting a sometimes disparaged demographic: the Disney DINKs, or âdual income, childlessâ couples who visit the Disneyland Resort, in addition to vacationing families. As per strategy, the Radisson Blu rooftop pool and spa is for adults over 18 only.
âIt’s a little nervous, and it works for us,â Lindburg said. âNo one else seems to be targeting them. For us, the feedback has been very positive.
Just then, a woman in a Captain America shirt and a man wearing a pointy Fantasia hat walked past the BluSky Restaurant and Bar.
“Are you going to swim?” Lindburg asked the young couple.
They shook their heads “no” because of the overcast weather.
“It’s a little cold today,” Lindburg admitted. âBut if you’re thinking of dining, BluSky is very popular, so go to OpenTable and select a time. It’s a great experience.
Service, style and cleanliness are all key points that an anonymous AAA inspector takes into account during an unannounced visit to a hotel. The travel agency giant awards just 4% of some 25,000 hotel properties in the United States and Canada with the coveted Four Diamond designation, which now includes the Radisson Blu in Anaheim.
âThere are some unique elements such as the restaurant and rooftop bar,â said Scott Hammerle, manager of the hotel’s AAA Diamond program. âOne of the key things that stood out was the premium quality and design. They did a pretty solid job.
Radisson Blu has always aspired to be a Four Diamond hotel before leading the way. The developers have also sought to bring the brand to Anaheim without seeking temporary tax breaks for occupancy, despite its location on a plot adjoining an off-ramp to Highway 5.
For years, such surrender agreements fueled political dissension in Anaheim City Council. A four-diamond hotel incentive program, previously on the books, has drawn a trio of luxury hotels to the Anaheim Resort with tax breaks expected to total more than half a billion dollars over 20 years.
Since the program ended in 2016, only the Westin has been operational and operates as a Four Diamond hotel across from Disney’s California Adventure.
Everything remained cordial when BPM Real Estate Group and Greenlaw Partners presented the Radisson Blu project to the board in 2018 without seeking a similar tax refund deal. The development plan was voted on unanimously without contentious debate over subsidies.
“I thought it proved our point,” said Tom Tait, former mayor of Anaheim and a staunch critic of the incentive program. “But I also didn’t want to bring this developer into a big controversy just because he wanted to do something without subsidies, which I thought was a very good thing.”
What helped complete the project were Greenlaw Partners’ plans to transform a shopping center next door to the Radisson Blu into a gated community of townhouses. The construction teams are busy building the “100 West” of Toll Brothers, the future site of approximately 300 units.
Radisson Blu is considering âgood neighborâ programs for upcoming residents, including discounted stays and dining at its restaurants. The hotel also hopes to become a mainstay for future development across the 5 Freeway, which will serve as a bridge between the Anaheim Resort and the city center.
For now, everyone involved is celebrating the triumph of turning a triangular plot into a four-diamond gem.
âThe commitment of the owners to take the risk on this side shows that they really saw an opportunity and now we want to take advantage of it to become a foothold,â said Lindburg. âWe looked at everything that sets us apart from our competition and said we can do better here and attract people to this side. It is a remarkable place. “
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