A number of Los Angeles' most prominent hotels have recently completed remodels, and in several cases a spa opening has provided the crowning touch.

The Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel, completed a $35 million renovation this fall. Restaurants the Blvd, Wolfgang Puck's CUT steakhouse and Sidebar have received lots of attention, but the hotel also opened a salon, spa and pool deck with cabanas. The hotel spa is replete with aromatherapy steam room, ice fountain and an "experience shower" with different flashing lights depending on the water pressure.

"The spa is designed so that guests will be completely relaxed before their treatment begins," said Katherine Petty of the Beverly Wilshire. The 8,000-square-foot facility is one of the largest hotel spas in the city.

The Beverly Hilton completed an $80 remodel in October. All of the rooms were modernized and restaurant Circa 55 restaurant and bar C55 replaced Merv's restaurant among other upgrades. Finally, the hotel opened a spa, christened Aqua Star, after the neighboring pool where film and swim star Esther Williams once made a splash.

Last week, Sofitel LA completed its $40 million renovation with the opening of its "Le Spa." The spa opening follows the debut of its restaurant, Simon LA, helmed by celebrity chef Kerry Simon. Inside the hotel, everything was redone from carpet to furnishings.

"We're the cherry on top of the renovation," said Spa Director Maureen Schumacher. The spa, Sofitel's first in North America, adjoins the hotel's gymnasium. Each of the state-of-the-art treatment rooms has iPod docks and numerous loops of music. A bonus for LeSpa, which has entrances on the street and through the hotel, is their cross-the-street proximity to the Beverly Center.

Other hotels have followed suit. Peninsula Beverly Hills opened a remodeled spa this month, having taken out two guest rooms to allow for an expansion. The Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard also added a spa as part of its $12 million remodel.

Shangri-La Facelift

Across town, a very different kind of remodel is under way. Santa Monica's Shangri-La Hotel is undergoing its first renovation in more than 20 years and will be closed to the public for nearly a year.

The 54-room hotel, first opened in 1939, will have 71 rooms when it reopens in fall 2007.

The Shangri-La has been the setting for several movies and TV shows, including "White Men Can't Jump," "The Net" and a memorable rooftop suicide attempt in "Beverly Hills 90210." Business at the Shangri-La was hurt by the arrivals of Casa del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, and the Georgian Hotel. By the late-'90s, was having trouble competing and when the September 11 attacks further crimped tourism, the Shangri-La was just about finished, said general manager Dino Nanni.

Now, owner Tehmina Adaya is bringing the hotel back. The art deco look will be replaced with a modern design, but every room will still have an ocean view. Every room is being gutted and modernized, with high-speed Internet connections and sound systems. Additionally, an elevated pool with surrounding cabanas will be added and the courtyard will feature a Jacuzzi and fire pits.

Plans also include a restaurant and bar, although city approval and additional parking will be needed if either is to be open to the public.


Sia Amiri, who has created restaurants and nightspots in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, has rolled out a casual dining concept in Century City mall.

Amiri has founded, owned or worked for a string of nightclubs including Chez-Moi and My Place in Beverly Hills, Rage in West Hollywood and Krave in Las Vegas.

The Ummba Grill offers affordable, healthy Brazilian food on the go. Diners chose salads, warm sides, and meats and their plates are priced by weight. It's also the only bar in the mall other than Houston's, which is usually packed with its own restaurant patrons. And Ummba's bar offers more than 20 wines by the glass. Much of the food is also organic or natural.

Amiri's pitch to Westfield Group was a big hit, resulting in an offer of three locations, although he decided to stick to the one site. He says it's likely he'll open two more Ummbas in 2007. Possible L.A. locations are Americana at Brand in Glendale and Westfield Topanga mall.

Staff reporter Emily Bryson York can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 235, or at eyork@labusinessjournal.com .

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