By ELIZABETH HAYES
Carol Burnett once lived in a townhouse suite there. Gladys Knight and the Pips threw parties in the Champagne Suites. Over the years, guests have included The Beatles, the Bee Gees and Michael Caine.
But today, the Regent Beverly Wilshire’s Beverly Wing is a far cry from its ’70s splendor. It looks more like a war zone, with pipes and concrete walls exposed or knocked down and the sound of pounding and power tools filling the dusty air.
It’s not a pretty sight. But with the hotel business booming in Los Angeles, $35 million is being invested to remake the Beverly Wing a 1971 addition located behind the original building that fronts on Wilshire Boulevard.
The lime green shag carpets and paisley wallpaper in the upper floor rooms are being replaced with an updated, understated decor, along with high tech amenities, bigger rooms and bathrooms.
“When you have hotels like the Peninsula and the redo of the Beverly Hills Hotel, it puts pressure on us to redo the hotel,” said Peter O’Colmain, the Beverly Wilshire’s vice president and general manager.
Three other luxury hotels are also getting facelifts the Regal Biltmore downtown, the Century Plaza in Century City and L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills.
The improvements coincide at a time of little new full-service hotel construction and the highest occupancy rates since the recession of the early ’90s.
“The market is doing very, very well and as you’re seeing, a number of hotels have decided to renovate,” said Suzanne McConney, director of hospitality services for L.A., with E & Y; Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group.
Last year, L.A. hotel occupancy increased by 4 percent, to about 70 percent, according to E & Y.; The West Side was even stronger: 76 percent, which is considered very strong, said Senior Vice President Bruce Baltin.
A number of factors are cited, including the economic recovery in particular the booming entertainment, media and technology sectors.
McConney said that what sets the high-end hotels apart is their attention to detail and personalized service, as well as a high quality of rooms (often over $300 a night).
“Hotels in this upscale category, they have to compete at a level of expectation of guests that is much higher,” he said.
Regal Hotels is investing $5 million to $6 million this year in the 75-year-old Biltmore, which it purchased for $60 million in 1996. Four floors of guest rooms are being revamped with new bathrooms and decor. Cosmetic improvements in the lobby, main galleria, and two dining rooms will begin later this year, said Randall Villareal, the hotel’s general manage.
In Beverly Hills, LAHOTEL Corp. spent $60 million to buy and remake L’Ermitage, which will reopen April 15 with 124 rooms and suites, restaurant, pool, fitness center and other amenities.
And in Century City, Westin Hotels & Resorts is upgrading 733 guest rooms and suites at the Century Plaza. The improvements include new carpeting, furnishings and enlarged bathrooms.
At the Beverly Wilshire, eight floors of the 14-floor Beverly Wing that had been closed for the past decade will be reopened later this year as part of the $35 million upgrade.
The upper eight floors are being reconfigured from mostly split-level townhouse suites to a combination of standard rooms and suites of up to 1,800 square feet, with bay windows and high ceilings.
A second presidential suite is being added in the wing the existing one commands $5,000 a night and the health club and spa are also being redone.
The first six floors, which had remained open until recently, are also being renovated and are scheduled to reopen by early March.
The stately Wilshire wing facing Rodeo Drive received a $100 million renovation 10 years ago. But it, too, will get a few touch ups, including new carpeting, drapes, bedspreads, an expanded lobby and the addition of a Hall of Memories with memorabilia from the 70-year-old hotel.
All told, rooms at the Beverly Wilshire will grow by 120, from 275 to 394. As a result, Lai Sun International, the Hong Kong-based owners of the Beverly Wilshire, has projected a 25 percent increase in revenue annually, said spokeswoman Deborah Lung-Placek.