Joining the trend of lower-priced hotels that retain a stylish veneer, a San Francisco-based operator of boutique hotels is transforming the 211-room Holiday Inn Brentwood/Bel Air.

Christian Strobel, vice president of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, said that after the proposed $5 million renovation, the Brentwood/Bel Air will "deliver the higher-end design of what you may look for in hotels around the Hollywood area, but at a slightly more affordable rate." It's likely that the hotel will shed its Holiday Inn affiliation.

In the next five years, the company plans to grow its Southern California presence to at least 12 hotels. Joie de Vivre currently has 28 properties, all in Northern California.

Meanwhile, Kor Hotel Group, the Los Angeles-based operator behind the Viceroy Santa Monica, is putting the finishing touches on the Chamberlain in West Hollywood after a $6 million makeover. The 112-room hotel, tucked away in a residential pocket near the Sunset Strip, was a Summerfield Suites by Wyndham when Kor added it to its portfolio of hotels two years ago.

Julie Shkolnik, director of sales for the Chamberlain, said the hotel caters to "somebody young, somebody sophisticated who is looking to stay at place with design." At the Chamberlain, rates start at about $169 a night, $100 less than at the Viceroy.

Kor and Joie de Vivre are betting there's a steady stream of travelers who prefer boutiques to chains such as the Courtyard Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn. It's a bet that Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. is making nationwide with its line of 500 Project XYZ hotels that will be aimed at travelers who can't or won't pony up to the far higher prices of its W chain.

Canyon Johnson Urban Fund, a Beverly Hills-based joint real estate venture between Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, has committed $50 million to develop between 10 and 15 Project XYZ hotels in minority communities. Those hotels will be put in the top 20 metropolitan markets, including Los Angeles.

"This was a logical investment because we truly believe that these markets have a tremendous need for quality service hospitality," said Bobby Turner, a managing partner at Canyon Capital. Project XYZ is the first hospitality investment for the Urban Fund.

*The full column will be available in the June 13 issue of the Los Angeles Business Journal.

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