When the 297-room SLS at Beverly Hills opens this November, it will be one of L.A.'s most ambitious building adaptations, transforming a 1980s-era business class lodging into a five-star hotel by & #252;ber designer Philippe Starck, who transformed the industry 20 years ago with the first boutique hotel. Developer Sam Nazarian is spending $130 million and sparing no expense. Acclaimed Spanish chef Jos & #233; Andr & #233;s is handling the food from room service to restaurants. And cutting-edge New York City retailer Moss is opening a Los Angeles outlet there. The hotel will be operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts with an average room rate of about $450.


Sam Nazarian, chief executive of privately held hospitality company SBE, knows that he's viewed as a "nightclub guy." But the way he sees it, he was in the hotel business long before creating the nightspots that made his name.

"I was a hotel guy first," said Nazarian, who talks of having planned for an SLS hotel starting five years ago.

The Los Angeles company purchased the La Cienega Boulevard property, which formerly housed Le Meridien at Beverly Hills, for $90 million in a 2005 bankruptcy sale. In addition, SBE is spending $130 million on the renovation of the seven-story building. The project is slated to open in November.

Nazarian said he's most excited about the hotel's 15,000-square-foot ground floor retail and eateries space, called the Bazaar. It includes several restaurants by Spanish chef Jos & #233; Andr & #233;s and a high-end, "experiential" retail store by New York City-based Moss, which has been described as a museum masquerading as a store.

"I don't think it's a risk because I am doing it, but nothing like the Bazaar has ever been built before," boasts Nazarian.

The longtime Angeleno said the city has changed in the last five years, with luxury nightclubs and restaurants that have made it more desirable for the young and moneyed set. And he takes some of the credit.

"What I saw was an opportunity for luxury to come to Los Angeles," he said. "We exactly fit in the white space that lives between people that have outgrown W (hotels) and aren't ready for the Montage," he said. "That's the thesis for SLS. That's why SLS has a right to exist in our world today."

The developer has opened a slew of successful nightspots in the last five years, including Hyde Lounge and Area, both popular with the Hollywood crowd. There are also SBE's eateries and lounges, like Katsuya and Foxtail. Nazarian plans to connect SLS to other SBE properties, with a bit of high technology.

Guests at SLS will be able to use their room keys to charge meals and drinks purchased at SBE venues to their hotel room. And a dedicated "SBE concierge" at the hotel will help visitors plan their nights on the town at Nazarian's venues. What's more, VIP guests at SLS will have special access to the hotspots and will be shuttled around in custom $300,000 vans.

"It gives us the flexibility that no one else in town will have and that to me is one of the biggest sellers," Nazarian said.

Next up, finishing up similar remodels of the Ritz Plaza in Miami and the Sahara Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, both recent SBE acquisitions.


DEVELOPER:

SAM NAZARIAN

Chief Executive, SBE

Notable Projects: Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant opened in Brentwood and other locations; several L.A. nightspots, including Area, Foxtail and Hyde Lounge.

A Favorite Hotel: One & Only Palmilla Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Development: "I am good at acting as the customer. When we walk through the hotel, that's what excites me. Knowing why and how we differentiate ourselves and who our clientele is. I always push others to understand who our customer is and why they would come to SLS."

SLS Challenges: "The most challenging part of anything that is so dynamic is being able to build it. There are so many moving parts. This isn't the third or the 50th SLS, it's the first. It's maintaining integrity through a world of construction and entitlements. It's very hard to build in L.A."

ENGINEER:

PAUL VAN BENSCHOTEN

Principal of Structural Engineering,

Coffman Engineers

Notable Projects: Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles; Getty Villa remodel, Malibu; Eiffel Tower replica at the Paris hotel, Las Vegas.

Favorite Hotel: "I'm a person that likes to sleep in the dirt. I've been an outdoor person for many years, so Yosemite."

Dream Project: Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Engineering: "My favorite part is finding creative solutions to engineering problems. It's the collaborative effort."

Reuse: "It's the challenge of taking something as an existing structure that doesn't really lend itself to being remodeled to this extent and figuring out creative solutions to all the different engineering problems."

SLS Challenges: "The building was
constructed in the late 1980s, and by adding the additional load of the rooftop pool deck, the existing building didn't conform to current earthquake standards. So the challenge was to provide additional seismic upgrades with a retrofit that made economic sense."

L.A.: "As a structural engineer, being involved in earthquake engineering is definitely one of the most stimulating aspects."

CONSTRUCTION:

BILL SCHULIE

Construction Manager, SBE Hotel Group

Notable Projects: Atlantis Resort phase three, Bahamas; Marbella Club condos, Puerto Rico; Hilton hotel, Lowell, Mass.

Favorite Project:
"Creativity-wise this has been one of the highest."

Construction: "Every day the job changes. What I love about my work is that every day there is a different challenge."

SLS Highlight: "The sound screen around the pool; I think it's the neatest thing around. It's made up of individual picture frames of all
different sizes. From glass to painted wood, with graphics in the frame. It's not your
typical fence."

PROJECT ARCHITECT:

KELLY FARRELL

Principal, RTKL Associates Inc.

Notable Projects:
717 Olympic apartment development, Los Angeles; Grand Indonesia, two million-square-foot mixed-use project, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Favorite Hotel: Casa Malparte, a private residence on Capri, Italy. "It sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The view when you wake up in the morning; you can't beat it."

Dream Project: "The more complicated the better. I like complicated things that you can take apart and figure out how to make them work."

SLS Challenges: "You take a hotel that was good for its day and try to morph it into high standards for today, it's not so easy. Building codes have changed, requirements have changed and you have to figure out how to get all these pieces back together and still end up with an exceptional project."

L.A.: As a transplant from New York City, Farrell needed some time to adjust to Los Angeles. "The first few years were a little rough. I was constantly looking for a dry cleaner, deli and shoe repair guy. L.A. works at its own pace. You come to L.A. and you have a chance to really create something. I find it really rewarding."

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