Hollywood's New Hotel Boom in N.Y. and L.A.: "Upscale, Not Uppity"

Courtesy of The Knickerbocker
The Knickerbocker opened in February to the tune of $250 million.

A new surge of micro, lifestyle hotels in Los Angeles and NYC marks a trend among industry travelers: Good things come in small, hipsterized packages.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

LOS ANGELES

After years of false starts, Hollywood (and downtown L.A.) are fully coming into their own, with new boutique hotels as the latest push. Following decades of Hollywood's renaissance promise — since the Les Deux Cafe years of the '90s — the number of new branded lifestyle hotels being planned now nearly rival the number of clubs and may prove to be savvier social centers for the neighborhood as well as for guests.

The first to open, in July, was Mama Shelter, the Paris import (Beyonce and Jay Z have dined there) on the corner of Selma and Wilcox avenues. With its artfully graffitied chalkboard ceiling, giant square bar, oversized foosball table and lively restaurant in the lobby — plus 27-inch iMacs and free porn in the rooms — Mama Shelter is a fun-for-all place that embraces its location (6500 Selma Ave.; from $399 for XXL suites). Besides the iconic Hollywood Sign views and Muscle Beach-inspired rooftop gym, there are movie scripts (all set in L.A.) in the rooms: Pulp Fiction, Chinatown, Swingers, L.A. Confidential. Benjamin Trigano, who owns Mama Shelter — this will be the sixth outpost and first in the U.S. — with his father, Serge, and brother Jeremie (the grandfather founded Club Med), calls it an urban kibbutz. "It's a communal place where people have fun," says the longtime L.A. transplant.

The lobby of Hollywood’s Mama Shelter, which aims to attract millennials, among others.

"I've always thought the redevelopment of Hollywood was just a matter of time," notes Brendan McNamara, senior vp marketing at Hampshire Hotels, which is erecting the 10-story, 179-room Dream Hotel (6417 Selma Ave.) just down the street from Mama Shelter. Designed by the Rockwell Group, the Dream has been in the works for five years; it broke ground in late 2014 and plans to open in May 2016. The first Dream, on 55th and Broadway in New York, is a favorite of Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio. The new location will take advantage of the California climate: Glass penthouse walls will fold open, while lobby walls will collapse to open ground-floor food-and-beverage venues to the street. "This [will] create a new social hive," says McNamara. "We want to create a neighborhood out of this."

Luxury brand Thompson Hotels' spinoff, Tommie Hollywood, a new micro lifestyle brand aimed at millennials, is debuting early next year in New York City and also will be breaking ground on Cahuenga south of Sunset Boulevard. The 10-story, 200-room establishment will be Thompson's first new-build hotel; it will include a restaurant and bar, and the penthouse level will include an outdoor pool with a deck, another restaurant and a fitness center.

It's also about time that the resurgence of downtown fully takes. After all, the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened 12 years ago, and such restaurants as Alma, Bestia and Redbird have been winning national acclaim. Hotels are the latest leading edge: At press time, the 1929 Foreman & Clark building at Hill and Seventh Streets, a former department store turned jewelry mart that closed in April, is being renovated to transform into the first Hyde Hotel from SBE. In April, Andrew Zobler, chief executive of Sydell Group, the New York developer that opened the successful Line Hotel in Koreatown in early 2014, paid $39 million (in partnership with L.A. supermarket magnate Ron Burkle) for Giannini Place, an ornate neoclassical bank building (once headquarters of Bank of Italy, the forerunner of Bank of America) that was built in 1923 at Olive and Seventh Streets. Sydell Group now will convert it into the second branch of Manhattan's trendy NoMad Hotel (to open in 2017). "[People from] Los Angeles [are] the No. 1 market for NoMad in New York, says Zobler. "Quite a few Hollywood people stay with us, have dinners and throw parties with us." He doesn't mention names, but online photos show that guests have included Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, Katie Holmes and even President Obama. The plans include 250 guest rooms, a rooftop pool and several restaurants.

Thompson Hotels’ first new build, Tommie Hollywood, soon will break ground.

Sydell Group and Burkle also have bought the long-abandoned 1920s Commercial Exchange Building at Olive and Eighth Streets, which will become their third Freehand Hotel (after Miami and Chicago), set to open late next year. Freehand advances a Euro-style trend in high-design hostels — or "poshtels," as they've been called — that appeal to millennials, families and travelers who want to meet others. Pricewise, it will likely compete with the downtown Ace. "More than anything, it's for people looking for a social experience," says Zobler. "Our customer is somebody who wants to interact with other guests."

Another new lifestyle hotel brand going into DTLA is the 18-story, 350-room Hotel Indigo (899 Francisco St.) from IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), which also is opening the new 900-room InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown in the Wilshire Grand at Wilshire and Figueroa; it will soon be the tallest building in the West, towering 73 stories high with a lobby on the 70th floor and a rooftop restaurant and lounge (Century City hosts L.A.'s first InterContinental). "In the '80s, Los Angeles was [only] a car city," says Jason Moskal, vp lifestyle brands at Atlanta-based IHG. "Now [with downtown L.A.], it's more about the walkable city and people wanting it to be more like Chicago or New York." Since L.A. also is perceived as an international gateway, the InterContinental — in partnership with Korean Airlines — will give the brand a strong presence and appeal to leisure and business travelers.

NEW YORK

Five-star hotels are feeling deep love this year with NYC's growth in film and TV production. "For the 2014-2015 season, 46 episodic series have been produced in the five boroughs — the season before, there were 29," commissioner of NYC mayor's office of media and entertainment Cynthia Lopez tells THR. Bold-name check-ins can expect plenty of sumptuous suites: 2015 is notable for newly opened upscale properties. "Some of the most luxurious hotels the city has ever seen opened this year," says tourism partner to the city NYC & Co.'s Fred Dixon.

This includes Ian Schrager's latest in the Big Apple. After successful hotel openings in London and Miami, the hotelier has returned to his former stomping ground with New York Edition (5 Madison Ave.; rooms from $595), in the former MetLife building. The lobby houses an $800,000 sculptural grand staircase of lacquered steel, while the landmark Clocktower restaurant — the former office of the MetLife chairman — sports original herringbone oak floors and mahogany wainscoting from 1909. "It has the look and feel of an inti­mate private mansion yet is very glamorous, with exciting public spaces," Schrager tells THR. "It is completely original, distinctive and sophisticated." Since it opened in May, Rosario Dawson and Alexa Chung have checked in.

The King Suite in the Park Hyatt New York.

After launching in February with a $250 million price tag, The Knickerbocker (6 Times Square; rooms from $495), Times Square's first new luxury hotel in years, has wooed guests with its unique rooftop watering hole, St. Cloud. "From the bellmen in their classic knickers to the fantastic St. Cloud bar — no better place for a power-meeting — it's upscale, not uppity," says Bob Hayes, who with Jim Burba co-produced Space Station 76, starring Matt Bomer and Liv Tyler. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas also have knocked back drinks here, after the July 13 screening of Ant-Man, and the week after, AMI honored Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, who partied with Tyson Beckford and Harvey Weinstein. "Times Square is the East Coast Hollywood," says managing director Jeff David (formerly of Four Seasons Regent Beverly Wilshire). "As many celebrities work in Hollywood, studios also work on Broadway. Agents, lawyers and media houses are also within three blocks of our address."

Celebrities such as Jennifer Garner were quick to check out Baccarat Hotel (28 W. 53rd St.; rooms from $899) when it opened in March. The French crystal maker debuted the hotel with 114 rooms that feature coyote-skin armchairs, silk-lined walls, 17 custom-made chandeliers and, naturally, 15,000 pieces of Baccarat crystal throughout the prop­erty, which includes a La Mer spa and Chevalier restaurant. There also are 60 Tony Ingrao-designed residences for sale, including a $60 million duplex penthouse.

Already home to such events as the Fashion Media Awards, attended by Kate Upton and Tom Ford, Park Hyatt New York (153 W. 57th St.; rooms from $753), less than 1 year old, has the right amount of panache for the A-list set. The 210-room midtown hotel includes 350 pieces of specially commissioned art, including works by Ellsworth Kelly and Robert Longo — and a discreet back entrance for VIP guests. Katie Holmes checked in, admiring a Leo Villareal art installation, which she Instagrammed. Says George Yabu of world-renowned firm Yabu Pushelburg, which designed the hotel: "It plays on themes of glamour, power and inspiration. Naturally, the hotel speaks volumes to the Hollywood set."

And the boom keeps booming: In addition to the above five-star properties, the Big Apple soon will enjoy Marmara Park Avenue (opening this August), Four Seasons Downtown (2016), SLS Hotel Park Avenue (2016), New York Edition Times Square (2017) and Richard Branson's Virgin Hotel (2017).

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