Designs for the long-anticipated Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria, the luxury chain's first new U.S. outpost west of Chicago, have been unveiled with a flourish by local hotelier Beny Alagem.
The 12-story Waldorf Astoria will stand at the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards next to the Beverly Hilton hotel. It will be a flagship for the Hilton company's top hotel brand, said Christopher Nassetta, chief executive of Hilton Worldwide.
"When we are done, this will be one of the great hotels in the world," he said. "We have been working with Beny on this project for nearly a decade."
Preliminary work is underway, and the grand hotel is expected to open in 2017.
The project was delayed in large part by neighbors' concerns that development would create more traffic congestion at the busy intersection. Beverly Hills voters narrowly approved the project in a 2008 ballot measure intended to stop Alagem from further developing his property.
City officials have to approve the final architectural design of the Waldorf Astoria before construction can begin, Alagem said.
The hotel will cost more than $200 million and be developed by Alagem's company, Alagem Capital Group, and clients of Guggenheim Partners, a prominent investment firm. It's part of Alagem's planned $500-million project on the Hilton site that will also eventually include two residential towers.
Alagem's vision is to make the 170-room Waldorf Astoria one of the biggest five-star hotels in Beverly Hills, projecting both Hollywood glamour and airy California cool.
The site will be lushly landscaped with entrances off of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.
"It will be almost like a secret garden," Alagem said. "You'll want to come in and see what's happening."
The hotel lobby will be nearly three stories high in a contemporary Art Deco design. It will have hand-painted murals of California landscapes, custom chandeliers and a prominent clock meant to evoke the famous 19th century timepiece in the lobby of New York's Waldorf Astoria.
The building was conceived by architecture firm Gensler and interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, which were faced with the challenge of making the Waldorf Astoria complementary in appearance to the 1950s-vintage Beverly Hilton.
The new hotel will be clad in curving white stone inspired by Streamline Moderne style with bronze accents. Guest rooms will have floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto landscaped private balconies. The rooftop swimming pool deck will include greenery, cabanas and a bar and grill exclusive to hotel guests.
There will be an upscale restaurant open to the public, stores including jeweler Graff Diamonds and a Waldorf Astoria Spa. The hotel will also include meeting space and a ballroom that will hold as many as 200 people.
"The arrival of our Waldorf Astoria brand to Beverly Hills is one of the most highly anticipated developments in our portfolio," said John T.A. Vanderslice, global head of Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts for Hilton.
There are 24 Waldorf Astorias now, he said. The most recent branches opened in Beijing and the United Arab Emirates. Outposts in Jerusalem and Amsterdam will open shortly. Each hotel in the fast-growing chain should be in a prime location and reflect the local culture, he said.
Alagem expects his guests at the Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria will probably include business and leisure travelers from the Middle East and Far East, as well as the U.S., he said. Overnight stays in the 128 standard rooms will probably cost $660 to $840. Nights in the 42 suites will cost more.
Born in Israel, Alagem is an entrepreneur who founded Packard Bell Electronics in 1986. The computer manufacturing firm made him wealthy before he left the technology business around 2000. He bought the Beverly Hilton from entertainer Merv Griffin in 2003 for $130 million.
Alagem spent an additional $90 million renovating the well-known hotel that has served generations of visitors to Los Angeles. It hosts more than 300 events a year in its main ballroom including the annual Golden Globe Awards for accomplishments in movies and television.
In 2006 Alagem announced plans for additions to his Beverly Hilton site that would include another hotel and two condominium buildings with a combined total of about 110 units whose residents would have access to hotel services.
The Beverly Hilton's free-standing Oasis Court, the Lanai guest room buildings by the swimming pool and the south parking structure are to be razed as part of the condo project. The building once occupied by Trader Vic's restaurant will be demolished to make room for the Waldorf Astoria.
Parking will be created under the new hotel and condos, bringing the total on site to 1,800 spaces.
By concentrating his units in tall buildings by Beverly Hills standards -- one of the residential towers could reach 18 stories -- Alagem expects to create 4 acres of open space and gardens on the 9-acre site, he said. "We're creating an urban resort."