It looks like the convention center hotel in downtown Los Angeles is turning into a case of less is more.
When the city was negotiating with Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a hotel in the Staples Center parking lot, the deal was contingent on the facility being large enough to serve as the headquarters hotel for large conventions.
All talk was of a 1,200 room hotel, the kind of heft that city officials and downtown boosters said would help draw business to the convention center.
Then came the development agreement cut last year by the Community Redevelopment Agency, which only called for "approximately" 1,100 rooms.
By last week, when AEG announced its latest iteration of the project involving dual hotels under separate Marriott Marquis and luxury Ritz-Carlton flags the complex was down to 1,000 rooms.
And nobody was complaining.
"We recommended 1,200 rooms, but there is nothing cast in concrete. There is some degree of art and science," said Bruce Baltin, senior vice president of PKF Consulting Corp., a hospitality consultancy. "(But) the project is still large enough to make a statement as a headquarters hotel."
It turns out that city officials and others are saying, at least publicly, they do not believe the design change will discourage large conventions from coming to downtown.
The 1,000 total rooms plan announced for the 54-story building will be divided between an 876-room Marriott Marquis on the bottom floors, with a 124-room Ritz-Carlton boutique hotel above that all topped by 216 residential condominiums developed by KB Urban.
Michael Collins, a senior vice president at L.A. Inc., the city's convention and visitors bureau, said despite the downsizing of the hotel complex, the block of rooms that will be committed to conventioneers will remain at 750 as was originally envisioned.
"The room block will be exactly the same size," Collins said.
Another reason for a decrease in the room numbers rooms is that hotel operator Marriott International Inc., which replaced Hilton Hotels Corp., prefers larger-than-average suites, according to AEG spokesman Michael Roth.
"We have the same space allotted for rooms. Larger suites made fewer but bigger rooms," said Roth, who also said the Marquis Marriott and Ritz-Carlton flags will offer a higher level of service that should help draw visitors in their own right.
"We're finding ourselves with a client pool that is going to be more responsive to the prospect of this hotel than we anticipated," he said.
The revised plans also call for a larger ballroom that will accommodate 3,000 people, making it one of the largest hotel ballrooms in the city.
The convention center hotel is the centerpiece of the L.A. Live project, which also includes a 7,100-seat theater, shops, restaurants, a nightclub, movie theaters and ESPN's new West Coast broadcast center.
The project is being built on about one square mile of surface parking lots surrounding the Staples Center, of which AEG is the principal owner. With the potential addition of a professional football team at the L.A. Coliseum, the downtown area could grow into the largest media and entertainment center in the country, home to five major professional sports teams and world-class concert venues.
Baltin said that while 1,200 rooms were preferred, "Branding it as Marriott Marquis and Ritz-Carlton more than mitigates the difference than the number of room keys," he said.
City Councilwoman Jan Perry, whose District 9 includes downtown, also said she was satisfied with the size of the hotel, especially if that means that the complex will be constructed.
"Construction costs are going up very rapidly, especially with respect to steel, and people are nervous about the market," she said. "This was a parking lot. There were no jobs being generated from this. Any jobs generated are a net sum gain for the city of Los Angeles. They will be good jobs. It's an enhancement that we didn't have before out of a parking lot."
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.