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Big new convention center hotel proposed for downtown L.A.

Big new convention center hotel proposed for downtown L.A.
TriCal Construction is seeking city approval to build this 1,024-room hotel complex at 1300 S. Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles. (TriCal Construction Inc.)

A towering 1,024-room hotel will rise next to the Los Angeles Convention Center a few years from now if developer TriCal Construction Inc. gets its way.

TriCal filed a development application with city officials Thursday to build a 53-story skyscraper across Figueroa Street from the convention center's South Hall. The site is now occupied by a five-story apartment complex called City Lights on Fig that TriCal built there just 12 years ago.

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"The time seems right to reimagine our property into the kind of hotel facility that will continue the growth of the convention center, South Park and Los Angeles,"  TriCal President Paul Plotkin said in a statement.

Street level view of the 1,024-room hotel complex at 1300 S. Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles that TriCal Construction is seeking city approval to build.
Street level view of the 1,024-room hotel complex at 1300 S. Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles that TriCal Construction is seeking city approval to build. (TriCal Construction Inc.)

As designed by architecture firm Gensler, the tower would have a ground-floor restaurant, a rooftop bar and rooms for meeting and banquets. Like the nearby conjoined JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live, it would be operated as two different hotels.

Plans call for a podium-like structure between floors one and 10 that would house the meeting rooms and 277 parking places. The main hotel lobby would be on the 10th floor along with a swimming pool, another restaurant and a publicly accessible deck and bar. Floors 11 through 53 would contain guest rooms.

Massive electronic screens displaying advertising and art would face Figueroa Street and Pico Boulevard.

The hotel operators have yet to be selected, and Marina del Rey-based TriCal declined to say how much the development might cost. The 54-story JW Marriott-Ritz Carlton complex, which includes 1,000 hotel rooms and 224 condominiums, cost about $900 million and was completed in 2010.

At the time, it was considered financially risky to build that many guest rooms. But the hotel quickly proved to be a success, and downtown has since been transformed into a popular destination for residents and tourists. Downtown is considered to have a shortage of hotels by hospitality industry analysts and civic leaders.

City officials set the goal of having 8,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center by 2020. As of September, there were 3,172 such rooms, and another 2,000 were under construction.

Bud Ovrom, executive director of the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Development Department, applauded the proposal, saying the convention center is losing business because it doesn't have adequate hotel support.

"We desperately need more hotel rooms here to make our facility competitive with other convention centers on the West Coast," Ovrum said.

In San Diego, there are three hotels attached to the convention center with a combined total of 4,000 rooms, hospitality industry analyst Bruce Baltin of PKF Consulting said. Substantially more rooms are within two blocks. San Francisco has more than 10,000 hotel rooms serving its convention center, and Anaheim has nearly that many.

Los Angeles County is one of the top hotel markets in the country yet has fewer rooms, Baltin noted, and downtown L.A. has emerged as a hot spot in recent years. Downtown hotel rooms were occupied 78% of the time last year, which is considered robust, Baltin said. Occupancy was typically under 70% before L.A. Live and its hotels arrived.

It may take two or three years to secure city approval for TriCal's hotel at 1300 S. Figueroa St. and another two years to build it, the company said. The 100 apartments in City Lights on Fig are to remain occupied by renters until construction begins.

Tearing down such a relatively new building is unusual, downtown real estate consultant Hal Bastian said, but probably makes economic sense because of the property's location near the convention center.

Since City Lights on Fig was completed in 2004, many similar apartment buildings of five stories or less with wooden frames have been built downtown. That has prompted criticism from some urban planners complaining that downtown buildings should be taller to accommodate more growth. However, taller buildings typically require steel frames, which make construction more expensive.

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"Because of the Great Recession, we had to build a lot of things we otherwise shouldn't have built including stick buildings," Bastian said. "They were the only things that penciled out."

It's unlikely that other recently built wood-frame buildings downtown will be torn down and replaced with bigger ones anytime soon, but eventually it will begin to happen, he predicted.

"This is not a trend yet," he said of the demolition proposal, "but it foreshadows what will happen down the road as we continue to grow."

TriCal's proposed hotel would join others in the pipeline downtown, where billions of dollars' worth of construction is underway and further large-scale development is planned. Among the largest projects is the nearly 900-room Intercontinental being built at the intersection of Figueroa and Wilshire Boulevard that is set to open this year.

Also close to completion is the 350-room Indigo hotel that is part of the Metropolis condominium and retail complex two blocks north of L.A. Live. Oceanwide Plaza, set for completion on Figueroa in 2019, will have a 184-room Park Hyatt.

A  250-room W Hotel is planned for the intersection of Figueroa and 11th streets, and three boutique hotels are under construction in historic former downtown office buildings.

Twitter: @rogervincent

UPDATES:

2:53 p.m.: This article was updated with more details on the project and competing hotel developments, and comments from industry analyst Bruce Baltin and real estate consultant Hal Bastian.

This article was originally published at 5:55 p.m. on Feb. 23.

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