Take Two: New $1.5B L.A. Hotel Plan Wins Over Critics

For a plan to redevelop the site of the historic Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, the second time is the charm.

For a plan to redevelop the site of the historic Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, the second time is the charm. Two years after its original proposal failed to win crucial support, the project’s developer, Next Century Associates, has just unveiled a new $1.5 billion mixed-use plan for the iconic property–much to the delight of former detractors.

Sited on a nearly six-acre parcel at 2025 Avenue of the Stars in tony Century City, Century Plaza first opened its doors in 1966. Next Century—led by executive manager Mike Rosenfeld—and investment firm D.E. Shaw Group acquired the 726-room hotel from Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc. in June 2008 for $366.5 million. In December 2008, Next Century offered a redevelopment plan that including demolition of the Century Plaza. That plan drew opposition from, among others, the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The influential group criticized the proposed demolition of a building designed by the noted architect Minoru Yamasaki, whose work also included the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in Downtown Manhattan.

“There was a lot of pushback from the preservation committee, but Michael sat down with them and found a way to make it work,” a Next Century spokesperson told CPE. “He became a believer.” The revised plan enjoys the backing of not only the National Trust, but also other heavy hitters like the L.A. Conservancy and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Under the new plan, the ’60s-era hotel will not only continue to stand, it will serve as the centerpiece of the site. The existing 19-story hotel structure would contain 394 guestrooms, 63 condominium residences on the top two floors, approximately 26,300 square feet of meeting and ballroom space, a 14,000-square-foot spa and 11,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Two new 46-story structures will anchor the hotel tower, adding as many as 290 condominium residences, 94,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a maximum 100,000 square feet of office space.

“There’s lots of changing in Los Angeles; more people want to live and work in the same area,”  the Next Century spokesperson said. “And there’s a huge workforce in Century City. The top talent agencies are here or nearby–CAA is across the street. And the largest law firms in Los Angeles are based in Century City or have second offices there, so there will be a tremendous amount of demand for the project. Michael believes it will be coming online when things have turned around.” New Century is aiming for completion in 2014.

And the project will yield additional amenities. Century Plaza will be reborn with an expanse of public open space, including a two-acre plaza and previously unavailable pedestrian access routes. “The whole idea is to open it up, make it more of an urban plan that also fulfills Century City’s greening plan,” the spokesperson explained.  “It will be a public destination.” With Pei Cobb Freed & Partners on board to handle the planning and architecture, and Gensler serving as the executive architect, Century Plaza is designed to meet qualifications for LEED Silver certification.

As for financing, Rosenfeld is confident in the financial clout of its equity partner. “D.E. Shaw is one of the few hedge funds that didn’t have any problems,” the New Century spokesperson noted.