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FelCor Reveals Plans for Hotel by Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

June 7, 2013 -- FelCor Lodging Trust filed plans with the Planning Department early Thursday morning for a long-awaited redesign of the former Holiday Inn. The proposed redevelopment sits at the hub of a swirl of projects that promises to revitalize the area near the Santa Monica Pier.

Designed by the award-winning Venice-based architectural firm The Jerde Partnership, the proposed project would replace the seven-story box-like hotel built in 1967 with three buildings ranging from five to 15 stories, twice the height of the current building.

The newly-renamed Wyndham Hotel is located at one of Santa Monica's choicest sites – near the entrance to the Pier (the city’s most popular destination), across from the newly remodeled Santa Monica Place and between the redeveloped Civic Center and the heart of Downtown.

“We're kind of at ground zero of the hundreds of millions of dollars the City has invested in infrastructure,” said FelCor's Vice-President Debra Feldman.

The new design would add ground-floor retail and a sidewalk cafe along Colorado Avenue where the City plans to invest about $11 million for an Esplanade that would widen sidewalks, install a bike lane and make all traffic westbound west of Fifth Street. The plans also call for a rooftop restaurant and bar as well as an observation deck, all open to the public.

FelCor officials hope the redesigned hotel will help integrate the 170,000-square-foot property with the neighboring Colorado Esplanade; the Pier, which will have a new bridge at its iconic entrance, the City's new $50 million Tongva Park to the south and the future Expo Light Rail station two blocks east.

“The proposed project's three-building design will create visual windows that connect the Tongva Park and the Civic Center area to the Downtown,” FelCor officials wrote in a letter to City Planning Director David Martin.

Due to the anticipated increase in foot and bike traffic along Colorado Avenue spurred by the arrival of the Expo Light rail in 2016, the plans could move the hotel’s primary car entrance from Colorado Avenue to Main Street.

The plan calls for three buildings that would become taller as they step back from the ocean – with a 63-foot building along Ocean Avenue, a 96-foot building to the east and a 174-foot building along Main Street. The redevelopment would increase the number of hotel rooms from 132 to 211 and add 25 condos. There would be 180 parking spaces on site.

One of the current building's peculiarities is its lack of any windows facing the ocean. “It's considered by some to be somewhat of an eyesore,” said Tom Corcoran, who is chairman of the FelCor Board.

Even so, “it's always been a profitable hotel,” he said. In fact, of FelCor's nearly 70 hotels across the country, its Santa Monica facility has performed the best on a per-room basis, Corcoran said.

But, as it's designed today, “it doesn't do much for the community,” he added. “It's never been perceived as a place people can come to.”

The current hotel generates roughly $1.5 million a year in bed taxes that go into the City's general. A report by PKF Consulting estimates that the redeveloped hotel could generate $63.2 million in the 10 years after it opens.

Among the proposed community benefits listed in the application are a living wage provision and contract with Unite Here! Local 11, the hospitality workers' union, and the hiring of an additional 150 employees.

FelCor officials are also proposing making a contribution to the still under-funded Esplanade project, though they haven't specified an amount.

The plans were revealed less than a week before the Council considers a proposal that would postpone discussion of any developments over 84 feet, the limit set by the 1986 Downtown Specific Plan, until a new plan is adopted next spring.

The Wyndham Hotel is situated on one of eight “opportunity sites” downtown, parcels identified in the proposed Downtown Specific Plan where height and density limits would be higher than in the rest of the downtown, allowing developers to build up in exchange for community benefits.

It's also the third hotel project proposed for opportunity sites along the stretch of Ocean Avenue between California Avenue and the freeway.

While opponents have characterized the sites as allowing “unlimited” height and density, City officials say staff has always intended to specify heights and floor area as part of the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) analysis.

While the opportunity sites “have some flexibility, it is not unlimited,” said Francie Stefan, the City’s Strategic and Transportation Manager. “The CEQA document will analyze a ceiling, and the Council could negotiate a height up to that ceiling based on the community benefits package.”

The other two proposed projects along Ocean Avenue -- the Fairmont Miramar redevelopment and a new Frank Gehry-designed hotel -- have drawn opposition because each is more than 20 stories tall.

Height “is clearly a hot issue,” said Corcoran. But, he added, “each project should stand on its own.”

FelCor officials maintain that this location is one that could support tall buildings.

“The additional height is less imposing on our site because it is surrounded on all sides by public rights-of-way, including the 1-10 Freeway, and is adjacent to the new Tongva Park, which will be preserved as open space going forward,” officials wrote in their letter to Martin.

Corcoran said that he was wary of lumping the three projects along Ocean Avenue together.

“I just want to stay focused on this project,” he said, adding that FelCor has been working on plans to redesign the building since 2006.

“We're not blocking any views,” he said. “There's no direct impact on homeowners.”

Context Photo for New Wyndham Hotel Wyndham Hotel NE Wyndham Hotel outdoor cafe

Wyndham Hotel GF Plan Santa Monica proposed Windham Hote l- view from above Wyndham Hotel view from freeway

Wyndham Hotel Expo to Pier Route Wyndham Hotel Looking South Wyndham Hotel Looking east
Photos Courtesy Wyndham Hotel and Jerde Architects. Click to see large.

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