Make Myself at Home: Iconic Granada Tower

I have a slight fear of heights. My kids might argue that it’s more than just a slight fear. They’ve seen me panic in years past when they got too close to the edge of a hiking trail or when I had to climb up anything that was too high, in my scaredy-cat opinion. However, I love a good view, especially a new perspective of a familiar landscape, so I’m constantly daring myself to overcome that fear of heights in order to enjoy the vista.

When I was invited to tour the newly listed Granada Tower, I was excited and yet a little apprehensive. I learned that it was just part of the Granada Building that is for sale, but the rooftop is part of it. My curiosity about a new viewpoint, from right in the heart of downtown no less, overrode my fear and had me ready to explore.

The history of the Granada Building is well documented in Santa Barbara lore. It was built in the 1920s and was controversial from the beginning, envisioned as an opulent performing arts theater housed in the tallest building in the center of town. Criticized by many for being too tall and out of place, the building was completed in 1924, opened to great fanfare, and was left unscathed by the earthquake of 1925. The city’s architectural guidelines were made more stringent from that point forward, and the Granada Building, standing 119 feet tall, was a lone exception to the 60-foot-maximum height restriction in Santa Barbara.

There is a more recent chapter to this iconic building’s history. In the early 2000s, the building was purchased and divided into unique, separate properties. The Granada Theatre occupies most of the first and second floors, and the seventh and eighth floors were each sold as residential units. The portion of the building that’s currently for sale is composed of the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth floors, plus the lobby and retail space on the first floor, and storage and cell towers on the ninth floor and rooftop. These make up the Granada Tower space, which was completely renovated in 2010. The entire building was stripped down almost to the bare structure and received a new foundation, subflooring, heating and air conditioning, elevator system, all new interiors, roof, seismic retrofitting, and much more.

The most compelling recurring theme when touring this building is the incredible attention to detail and quality that was maintained during the restoration. No corner is overlooked. The lobby feels like a movie set, and everything from the elevator hardware to the light fixtures to the crown moldings has been perfectly restored. It’s mesmerizing, and it almost feels as if you’ve stepped back in time. And this is just the lobby.

The third through sixth floors are the lion’s share of this listing. They have been luxuriously appointed and are currently long-term leased to various financial and legal firms. I’m told that there has never been any trouble renting these office spaces. Someone is always interested in having the best view in town, and this is arguably it. Since each floor consists of one large office space, there are few internal walls, and therefore many windows offer abundant views. And of course the views just get better and better the higher we climb.

In addition to the lobby and the four floors of office space, the listing also includes more than 1,300 square feet of storage space on the sixth-and-a-half and ninth floors, broken up into storage rooms ranging from approximately 60-300 square feet each, mostly leased to the theater or the other tenants. I was reminded of empty classrooms in a school: a really nice school with a really, really nice view.

Two more elements contained in the Granada Tower package are the retail space on the ground floor occupied by the popular Good Lion cocktail bar, plus a basement kitchen below and portions of the rooftop. On the day we toured, I didn’t mind that The Good Lion was closed; I was more excited about seeing the rooftop. We’re all familiar with the sloped horizontal swath of red-tiled roof that crowns the tallest building in town, but guess what? Those red tiles are not tiles. It’s a special radio-frequency transparent roof, with a façade designed to mimic the original roof and hide the cell tower and its equipment.

Even with the magic of the red-tiled roof debunked, nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for the adventure. I wasn’t scared at all as I gazed out over the heart of our downtown, enjoying my new favorite view.

1212-1216 State Street is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Greg Bartholomew and Michael Martz of Hayes Commercial Group. Reach Greg at (805) 898-4395 or Michael at (805) 898-4363.