Will the posh new 305-room W Hollywood Hotel & Residences supplant the nearby Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as the hangout for hipsters?
Several of those who know the market believe that the two establishments may go head to head at first, but in the long run the competition will help them both.
Nonetheless, the historic Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard, as well as the more middle-of-the-road Renaissance Hollywood Hotel on North Highland Avenue, have wasted no time in making improvements to keep themselves in the game.
Among other things, the Renaissance has been adding musical events, and will soon remodel its restaurant and corridors, even though it just opened in 2001.
The Spanish colonial Roosevelt, extensively remodeled just five years ago, will feature “new nightlife venues” this year, said Jason Pomeranc, who is co-owner of Thompson Hotels of New York, which owns the Roosevelt. And next year will see some room renovations.
“People choose to stay at the Roosevelt not only because of its location, but because of multiple layers of physical beauty,” he said.
And while there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition from down the street, Pomeranc added, “people will continue to go to the Roosevelt because of its intellectual soul.”
Yet the splashy debut of the $360 million W last month featuring just about every power player in town and a host of celebrities – including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, TV host Jimmy Kimmel and Robin Thicke – put its hospitality competitors on notice.
And the arrival doesn’t come at a time when tourists are exactly swarming over Los Angeles. Last year, hotel occupancy rates dropped nearly 11 percentage points – to 66 percent – while the average cost of a room fell from $170.50 to $151.50.
With occupancy rates not predicted to improve this year even as room rates continue to drop, some analysts believe that, at least initially, the W’s two main competitors will take a hit.
“I think initially the Roosevelt will see a decline,” predicted James Sinclair, the principal at OnSite Consulting LLC, a nationwide L.A.-based hospitality consulting service. “The new kid on the block always creates that for the competition. As long as the Roosevelt rises to the occasion and understands that competition forces innovation, however, then its business will ultimately increase because of the buzz created by the W.”
In fact, as far as glamorous and hip Hollywood haunts go, the Roosevelt has long had the town to itself.
Opened in 1927, the 12-story hotel was at the center of the excitement and elegance of early Hollywood, hosting the first Academy Awards in 1929. Marilyn Monroe is said to have lived in Room 246 and her first photo shoot was taken on the diving board at the pool. But as happened to Hollywood in general, the hotel eventually experienced a decline.
Then, in 2005, amid the neighborhood’s resurgence, the 83-year-old institution underwent a $46 million head-to-toe makeover aimed at restoring its glory for a new generation. Led by hot designer Dodd Mitchell, workers stripped the lobby’s ceiling to expose wood beams and stuffed its interior with oversized leather chairs to give it a smoking lounge feel.
Several new watering holes were added to attract the young.
The effort was a definite success with the hotel attracting A-list actors and celebrities such as Kirsten Dunst, Cameron Diaz and the late Heath Ledger. Actress Lindsay Lohan had a birthday bash there in 2008. Robert Ritchie – known more popularly as Kid Rock – reportedly had an altercation there in 2006 that was breathlessly reported by the Web site TMZ.com.
The room rates run the gamut from $199 to $239 for a standard room, up to $1,500 for a two-bedroom suite and more than $6,000 for a penthouse. The 300 units include a heavy mix of 58 suites and 60 poolside cabana rooms with private terraces. All of which has led some to conclude that the hotel attracts a different enough crowd from the W to sidestep a hard blow.
“People who go to the Roosevelt wouldn’t necessarily go to the W,” said Kristofer Keith, the owner of Spacecraft Design which does hospitality design and construction in Hollywood. “The Roosevelt has more of a boutique-type vibe, while the W reeks of corporate. I don’t really see a conflict.”
On the other hand, the 632-room Renaissance Hollywood Hotel and Spa, owned by L.A. real estate developer CIM Group, has largely targeted the tourist and convention crowd. Rooms start at about $239 a night (though the hotel has 33 suites, including a 3,500-square-foot penthouse that rents for $7,500).
To make itself more competitive in the new Hollywood market, Dan Shaughnessy, sales and marketing director, said the hotel in the last year has added such attractions as Indy Thursdays, during which independent music artists showcase their talent in the hotel’s lobby, and Sunday Standards, a Sinatra-style show. In addition, the hotel is in the process of remodeling its guest rooms as well as two major suites. This fall it will begin remodeling the lobby, corridors, restaurant and meeting space.
“Where they’re pushing the edgier side,” Shaughnessy said of the Roosevelt, “we’re more in the middle. We’re just edgy enough to attract some of the hip crowd, but not too edgy to drive away the more conservative customers.”
However, there is no doubt that the W will pose a threat. The brand was founded a decade ago by hospitality giant Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., the operator of the Sheraton, Westin and other hotels, to respond to the fast growth of independent boutique hotels that attracted younger crowds.
The first hotel in New York was a smash hit and since then Starwood has opened 54 W hotels. The Hollywood property is part of a complex that includes 143 condos and an adjacent apartment building. It has a spectacular, cavernous lobby designed for hanging out, with rooms ranging from about $219 to $850 a night. It includes 40 suites ranging from $3,000 to $10,000 per night. Next month, a swank $12 million Las Vegas-style rooftop nightclub called Drai’s Hollywood is scheduled to open.
“The response so far has been wow,” said General Manager Jim McPartlin, who said occupancy has hit 50 percent and is growing, “It’s been a thrill ride for the last two weeks. We’re about double where we thought we would be.”
Still, Seth Horowitz, vice president of operations for L.A.-based Luxe Hotels, which operates several establishments on the Westside, is another who believes that that W in the end will be good for business.
“Our position is that the more hotels there are in a particular area, the more visitors they can draw,” he said. “There is a desperate need for quality rooms in Hollywood. The Roosevelt and the Renaissance pretty much owned that neck of the woods; bringing in the W creates a triangle that will benefit the economy.”
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