LOS ANGELES — Hotels with indoor pools have been around for decades. But at the new and luxurious Downtown LA Proper Hotel, there’s a 2,777-square-foot suite with its own indoor pool, and it’s much larger than the rooftop one shared by all guests.
Another suite has enough space and height to play basketball – as it was once a basketball court, when the Renaissance Revival tower on Broadway was a private club for the the city’s business elite that included sports facilities, fine dining, and overnight accommodations.
The building, completed in 1926 as the Commercial Club, has regained those elements after changing a lot over the years, usually not for the better. Now it’s owned by a Santa Monica company that specializes in large-scale renovations of historic properties to create unusual hostels for travelers weary or wary of upscale chain hotels.
“We call it a looser kind of luxury,” said Brian De Lowe, president of Proper Hospitality. “This is our unique perspective” on luxury urban hotels.
The company calculates that the resurgent South Broadway neighborhood, where the Downtown LA Proper Hotel is located, will continue to improve. The Broadway and 11th Street location is six blocks east of Crypto.com Arena and LA Live, bordering the Fashion District, South Park, and Historic Downtown.
Neighbors include the upmarket Ace and Hoxton hotels, both created from 1920s brick office towers. Across Broadway is the newly remodeled Herald-Examiner Building, completed in 1914 by the titan of the William Randolph Hearst journal and now a branch of Arizona State University.
Proper Hospitality is also counting on a rebound in business and leisure travel after a pandemic plunge that decimated the ranks of hotels and restaurants.
Founded in 2015, the hotel management company operates Proper Hotels in Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Santa Monica, where the 271-room inn includes a renovated 1920s office building connected by bridge to a new seven-story addition. Proper Hospitality also operates six other hotels in Southern California, including the June Hotel in Malibu, the Venice V Hotel in Venice, and the Avalon Hotel & Bungalows Palm Springs.
The Santa Monica hotel took about a decade to plan and build, and the 148-room Downtown LA Proper Hotel also took several years to build before opening in the fall amid a booming hotel market. difficulty.
The Commercial Club folded during the Great Depression. In 1941, the building was converted into a hotel, and this use continued until the YWCA Job Training Corps moved its operations there in 1965. The YWCA moved to a new property several blocks away at the start of 2012, and the building remained vacant until the Proper arrived. .
Redoing the 13-story building with a design by architect Omgivning cost more than $50 million as the owners scrambled to restore some panache to the once glamorous structure.
“Given its scale, the Proper was a creative space-programming challenge that utilized every square inch of the building,” said Morgan Sykes Jaybush, Director of Hotel Projects at Omgivning.
The arbiter of Proper style is famed interior designer Kelly Wearstler, who helped pioneer the rise of unique “designer” hotels in the early 2000s, like the Viceroy Santa Monica. There she joined her husband, developer Brad Korzen, and De Lowe as they transformed a chipped 1960s inn near the beach into an upscale destination. Korzen and De Lowe went on to found Proper Hospitality, the hotel management company of their real estate company Kor Group.
At Proper, Wearstler didn’t hold back on the variety of textures, patterns and materials she is known for, layering elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Mexican and Moroccan design. She brought in vintage furniture and rugs, which help make each room different. There are over 100 types of hand painted and custom tiles affixed throughout the property.
In the 1,300-square-foot Basketball Suite, which retains its original hardwood floors, Wearstler opted to keep the double-height ceiling and painted color blocks on the wall to give a more intimate sense of scale. A night there costs $5,000.
(Sorry, b-ball fans: no hoop. It’s one thing to bring up basketball; it’s another to allow board play that might upset other guests.)
The seventh-floor Pool Suite provided the biggest challenge. The indoor “dive”, as it was known in the 1920s, was 35 feet long and 12 feet deep, an ideal companion for the club’s gymnasium and Turkish baths.
“It might have been easier to get rid of the pool altogether,” Wearstler said, “but I was really excited to see how we could make it work in the context of a guest suite.”
The pool level has been reduced to almost 4 feet to comply with modern safety standards. In addition to creating a suite with up to two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms (the suite is expandable up to 2,777 square feet, larger than the average new single-family home), she brought in ceramist LA Ben Medansky to create a monumental mural to anchor it.
“Now it’s this beautiful, sprawling suite,” she said, “the crown jewel of Downtown LA Proper, in my opinion.”
The suite is large and unusual enough to host gatherings such as fashion events, said hotel general manager Stephane Lacroix. But it won’t be cheap to rent for $10,000 a night. More typical hotel rooms start at around $300.
Le Propre has two restaurants. Caldo Verde, with Portuguese and Spanish influences, is operated downstairs by James Beard Foundation award winners Caroline Styne and chef Suzanne Goin. The largest restaurant is Cara Cara, serving food and cocktails on the 5,000 square foot rooftop where Wearstler has created “several small vignettes” to create intimacy between potted plants, trees and succulents.
She tried to keep the furnishings low-key, she said, so the city views grab the most attention.
Rooftop restaurants and bars that overlook city lights can be reliable revenue generators for hotels as they attract locals, reducing reliance on travel habits, says the Newport hotel investment banker Beach Donald W. Wise of Turnbull Capital Group.
Rooms won’t always have guests, he says. “It’s important to embrace the local community in order to have a continuous source of customers.”
Wise, who is not involved with the hotel, described Clean Downtown as “a long-term game” for owners as they have a substantial investment to recoup and may need to be patient.
“It’s going to take time to get the word out, to have a customer base that keeps coming back,” he said.
The upscale of the hotel market “has done quite well during the black swan event” of the pandemic and is on the mend, particularly among coastal and destination hotels, he said. Downtown hotels that relied on business and convention travelers struggled more.
The NoMad Los Angeles, an upscale boutique hotel in the heart of downtown, closed during the pandemic and remains closed even as other businesses, including the popular large restaurant Bottega Louie, have reopened.
Paradigm shifts that aren’t yet entirely clear have been happening during the pandemic, Wise said, including how companies will see the need for business travel after becoming familiar with service meetings. conferencing such as Zoom. Business travel may not return to more than 70% to 80% of pre-pandemic levels when this threat subsides.
“The new normal may not be the old normal,” he said, but it will take a few years to find out.
Hotel developers are nonetheless moving forward with several downtown projects, said Nick Griffin, executive director of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District.
The Conrad Hotel in the Billion-Dollar Grand Resort on Bunker Hill, the Cambria Hotel in a renovated 1920s building on Spring Street near City Hall, and the 37-story Moxie and AC Resort with more than 700 rooms near the Palais des Congrès.
According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, 16 additional hotels are being planned downtown, including an extension to the JW Marriott in LA Live and a 1,000-room skyscraper across Figueroa Street from the Convention Center.
The Proper is the latest addition to the South Broadway neighborhood, which was relatively forgotten 15 years ago when the downtown area was enjoying a renaissance that attracted thousands of new residents, as well as restaurants, bars, hotels and offices converted from old industrial buildings.
Economic growth has swept through the Proper neighborhood in recent years, including hotels, the revival of the Herald Examiner Building, and new stores such as a high-profile Apple store in a renovated movie palace. The nearby California Market Center, a building-sized office complex that recently underwent a $250 million makeover, has signed major office leases with apparel companies Adidas and Forever 21.
“All of these factors combine to create a vibrant ecosystem,” Griffin said. “We see this taking hold on South Broadway.”
The city center has the densest set of office buildings in the region, most of which are still sparsely occupied due to the pandemic. Full economic recovery there may hinge on the percentage of workers returning to their desks regularly as COVID fears ease.
The average office population in the Los Angeles metro area was 37% at the start of March, down from 26.5% at the start of the year when the Omicron variant was booming, according to Kastle Systems, which provides entry systems. by key card used by many companies. and follows workers’ card-reading patterns.
Business at Proper-run hotels has also fluctuated with the pandemic, De Lowe said, with revenue declines in late December and January followed by a more than 30% jump in February.
The average occupancy rate at hotels in the Los Angeles area was 67% in the week ending March 5, up substantially from the start of last year when the rate of occupancy was 40%, according to STR, a global hotel data and analytics company. Average daily room rates rose from $116 to $184 over the same period.
“We are very optimistic for spring and summer,” said De Lowe. “People have been locked up for so long. Now they want to explore and experience new things, and I think downtown LA really offers that.”
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