Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Wyndham Hotel Redevelopment Gets Warm Reception at Community Meeting
By Jason Islas
September 27, 2013 -- Residents got their first chance Thursday to weigh-in on plans by FelCor Lodgning Trust for a $160 million renovation of its 47 year-old hotel across the street from the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
And while the twelve residents who spoke showered praise on The Jerde Partnership, the award-winning Venice-based architectural firm who designed the project, most also had reservations about the proposed height.
Plans for the project, which were submitted in June to City Hall, call for replacing the current seven-story box-like hotel on a 27,859 square-foot plot in Downtown Santa Monica with three towers that range from five stories to 15 stories. ("FelCor Reveals Plans for Hotel by Santa Monica Pier," June 7)
“We're all going to get together and design this project,” Senior Vice President of The Jerde Partnership David Rogers told the crowd of about 50 residents, including two former mayors and Councilmember Kevin McKeown.
Rogers, who was on the team that designed the new Santa Monica Place in 2010, said, “we are big advocates of community involvement.”
That sentiment was echoed by FelCor's two representatives at the meeting: the company's co-founder and current Chairman Tom Corcran and Debra Feldman, the company's vice president of development.
“Hopefully, when it's done, you'll want to come this” hotel, Corcran said. While he said that other hotels in Santa Monica serve as gathering spaces for residents and community meetings, the current hotel really isn't.
In addition to the hotel's proposed architecture, speakers also praised FelCor's commitment to worker with local unions.
Feldman and Corcran both said that they were in talks with the regional hospitality workers' union, Unite Here Local 11, representatives of which were in the audience Thursday.
Thursday's presentation also included a stand-alone 3-D model of the proposed hotel as well as a table-size 3-D model of Downtown Santa Monica with the project included.
Former mayors Paul Rosenstein and Michael Feinstein both called for FelCor to support building a cap over the freeway as part of the project and they both spoke against the plan's proposed height.
Feinstein called plans to place 25 luxury condos on the top five floors of the tallest, easternmost building “a kick in the gut to the social justice fabric of this community.”
The condos, Feldman said, are primarily there to secure financing for the expensive project.
Feinstein has publicly faulted two other hotel projects proposed along Ocean Avenue for also planning to include luxury condos in towers, claiming that the model is tantamount to selling Santa Monica's skyline to the wealthy.
While the height remained an issue, most speakers agreed that something should be done to improve the current hotel, which has no ocean-facing windows and creates a visual barrier between Colorado Avenue and the city's new $40 million park to the south.
With the City ready to move forward with an $11 million overhaul of Colorado Avenue west of Fifth Street, which would widen sidewalks, make traffic one-way and provide buffered cycle tracks, FelCor's plans would allow passersby to interact with the hotel's ground floor cafe.
And there will likely be plenty of foot traffic. In 2016, the Expo Light Rail will start bringing as many as 25,000 travelers a day to Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue.
Still, any change is a long way off.
“If the project were to be approved,” Feldman said, construction wouldn't likely start until 2016. And it would last at least two years.
In the meantime, Corcran, Feldman, Rogers and his team, will solicit feedback from the community about the design.
A tentative schedule showed the project going before the Architectural Review Board for feedback in November.
Then, next spring, the project would go before the City Council for feedback on the design before beginning a lengthy State-mandated environmental impact report.
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