Carson Studies Alternatives to Hilton Hotel

Times Staff Writer

Armed with new demands and the experience of failure, officials here have gone to market for a hotel project to replace the city's long-sought Hilton development.

At a workshop Tuesday night, a seemingly more cautious City Council agreed to proceed with its 3-year-old effort to obtain an esteem-building, revenue-attracting hotel for Carson's $4.2-million Civic Center property.

That decision, however, came from scratch--after the council reconsidered everything from the feasibility of a hotel to the project's accommodations. The $21-million Hilton development was scrapped in mid-November when its developer failed to proceed for lack of financing.

To start, the council considered--for a short time--a proposal for a car dealership on the former Hilton site.

After hearing enthusiastic statements from an American Motors Corp. representative--who said his company could develop an operation on the site that would provide up to 140 new jobs and tax revenues from the sale of as many as 1,500 automobiles a year--the council voted to first seek additional hotel proposals.

Council members said, though, that if satisfactory proposals are not received by the city's March deadline, a car dealership may be considered as an alternative use for the 6.3-acre redevelopment property, previously occupied by Peyton Cramer Lincoln-Mercury.

But if the city is to have a hotel on the site, the council also decided, it should not be completely patterned after the project previously proposed by the Hilton's developer, the Feinberg Group.

The council learned for the first time Tuesday night that the Hilton project would have included conference facilities three times larger than those of any other hotel in the South Bay.

Council members now want a hotel operator to provide only limited conference facilities and to pledge to make use the city's $14-million Carson Community Center, which houses extensive conference and banquet facilities that are currently half-empty on weekdays.

"Definitely, we have to look at some level of joint use between the hotel and the community center," said Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt. "We would like to see that the hotel complements the community center."

The council also said that the new hotel should include a first-class dinner house and a coffee shop. The Hilton proposal had included only one restaurant.

"I would like to see the hotel dinner house be the icebreaker in Carson," said Mayor Pro Tem Sylvia Muise. "I would like to see it lead to the development of other dinner houses in the city."

In addition, the council voiced desires for a tram or a walkway between the hotel and the community center. And they said they are seeking a nationally known, upper-middle-class hotel development that would be architecturally compatible with the Spanish-style Civic Center.

"We wouldn't want a Middle East design to show up next to the community center," Muise observed.

City officials said, however, that it is still possible that another Hilton development could materialize on the property. According to city staff, J. Jay Feinberg, executive vice president of the Feinberg Group, has expressed an interest in submitting another proposal for the Carson hotel. Proposals, due March 9, will be considered at the council's March 18 meeting.

"By the time March 9 rolls around, Feinberg might have the financing together," said Redevelopment Project Manager Adolfo Reyes. "He'd be able to put the package together the fastest, and I'm sure the council would consider that."

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