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Downtown Santa Monica Holiday Inn Set to Propose Major Redevelopment

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

November 9, 2012 -- FelCor Lodging Trust have approached City staff about redeveloping the Holiday Inn on Colorado Avenue, a project which could add a 195-foot tower to the Downtown Santa Monica site, The Lookout has learned.

Though the project is in its very preliminary stages, FelCor -- which owns the Holiday Inn one block east of the Santa Monica Pier entrance -- wants to redesigne the hotel to feature world-class architecture and possibly three new towers.

“Apparently Holiday Inn wants their site to be identified as an opportunity site in the new Downtown specific plan,” said Council member Kevin McKeown.

McKeown said that he was approached by representatives of FelCor but declined to meet with them about the project until it had entered the public process.

He said he was told that the preliminary plan included an 50-foot, an 80-foot and a 195-foot tower.

“That'll never fly in Santa Monica,” McKeown said.

Identifying the property as an opportunity site would allow for the project to have “greater density and height than the rest of Downtown,” McKeown said.

But City officials said that it's much too early in the process to even talk about specifics, such as tower heights.

“We've had preliminary discussions with them, but it hasn't gone beyond that,” said Planning Director David Martin.

“We don't have an application yet. Nothing's been filed. We don't have any details on the heights of the buildings,” he said.

If FelCor decides to file an application for a Development Agreement, the process itself could take several years before construction even starts, Martin said.

Debra Feldman, vice president of development for FelCor, agreed.

“It's at the very conceptual stage,” she said.

When asked about the proposed heights of the towers, she said, “There's nothing that's definitive.”

Council member Terry O'Day said, “I'm interested in seeing what they have in mind.

“It's easy to become alarmed by a single number,” he said, referring to the alleged heights of the towers. “Let's talk and see what they are really proposing.”

“This city is making an almost $60 million investment in the surrounding area. It's natural for the Holiday Inn to be interested in upgrading their property,” he said.

The Holiday Inn property borders Santa Monica's new park in front of City Hall to the south and what will become the Colorado Esplanade to the north. The site is also only a few blocks away from the final stop on the future Expo Line.

Feldman said that FelCor hopes to start the float-up process by mid-January. By then, the new council members -- Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer -- will have taken their seats.

In the float-up process, a developer seeks feedback on preliminary designs from the Planning Commission and the City Council.

“It'll be the first real test of where the new council is on development,” said McKeown.

“The LUCE said the height limit Downtown needs to be determined by the Specific Plan,” he said, adding that the Council will begin working on the Plan in January.

“It'll apply to this site; it'll apply to the Miramar,” McKeown said about the plan.

The Miramar Hotel, located at the northern edge of Santa Monica's downtown, proposed a redevelopment of its property that could add as many as 120 new condos to the site.

The proposed plans for the site would replace the two-story administration building on Second Street with an 11-story building and a 30-foot tall by 95-foot wide open-air arrival court.

The 10-story Ocean Tower toward the center of the property would be demolished and replaced with a 12-story tower, and an entirely new 10-story building is proposed along California Avenue.

That project has proved controversial, helping instigate a rise of anti-development sentiment in the City.

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