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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Boutique Hotel Breaking Ground

The revitalization of the NoHo Arts District is spilling over to a gritty stretch of Burbank Boulevard, where a 70-room hotel is expected to break ground later this year. The $9 million Burbank Hotel would be the third boutique lodging serving North Hollywood. And like the others, it hopes to draw tourists visiting Universal Studios, which is expecting a surge of visitors when its “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction opens next year. The 38,500-square-foot, four-story hotel would be less than four miles from Burbank Bob Hope Airport – a major access point to the studio. More importantly, it’s just around the corner from the hopping arts district, which has boomed in recent years with new national retailers and luxury condo projects. But Burbank Boulevard has traditionally represented the district’s northernmost boundary. And this latest project is in the 11100 block of the thoroughfare, virtually equidistant from Lankershim Boulevard and Vineland Avenue – still a virtual no-go zone for hipsters. The hotel’s developer is RSP South West Investments LLC of Artesia, whose chief executive, Pranav Patel, owns seven small hotels in Orange County. Patel could not be reached for comment. Rosano Partners is the downtown Los Angeles brokerage that assembled the property for acquisition. Ian Whitman, Rosano’s chief strategy and operations officer, said the firm was well aware that the crowded blocks near the hotel site are unattractive and have had crime problems. “It’s very difficult to see the potential there, and it was challenging to get this deal done,” he admitted. Still, several small hotels in the immediate area have shown there is a market for more upscale lodgings: Actress Beverly Garland’s long-time property at 4222 Vineland Ave. got a $20 million upgrade last year that rebranded it The Garland; IKON Hospitality Group of North Hollywood is developing a $5 million, 41-unit lodging at the corner of Tujunga Avenue and Weddington Street; and nearby at 11342 Burbank Blvd. is the new 80-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites North Hollywood. The city granted a conditional use permit for Patel’s project in December after it won unanimous support from the Midtown NoHo Neighborhood Council and City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who is enthusiastic about its potential. “It aids the continued revitalization of NoHo on Burbank Boulevard. Hotels like this one in the southeast Valley create jobs and play a key role in our local economy,” he said. “They provide a place for visitors to stay near Bob Hope Airport and Universal Studios, and are just steps away from the Metro Red and Orange lines.” Not obvious Despite the growth in the local hospitality market, a hotel was not the first choice for the site. It currently houses a collection of seven commercial and residential buildings, including a series of sagging cottages arranged shotgun-style along a crumbling driveway and several 60-year-old industrial showrooms. It is crammed between two auto repair shops on a stretch of boulevard dominated by industrial users and small businesses catering to the Hispanic market. The property – two separate parcels – was purchased from two individual investors and an investment group for $2.45 million. It represents the kind of infill urban project that is Rosano Partners’ specialty. The brokerage recently completed the $1.5 million sale of three parcels on Otsego Street south of Magnolia in the Arts District that is slated for a 50-unit apartment building. Mariela Iamburg, vice president of investment sales at Rosano Partners, who led both North Hollywood deals, said a mixed-use development was originally considered for the Burbank Hotel site, but was dismissed due to zoning restrictions that limit the density of projects. “A hotel development proved to be the highest and best use for the site,” she said in an email. Hospitality industry consultant Rod Apodaca, senior vice president at CBRE Hotels in Newport Beach, took a look at the project and questioned how much the hotel will appeal to families vacationing at Universal Studios. “That is a really challenging location,” he said. “That customer is family-oriented and wants to stay in a higher-end product, closer to the park with all the amenities nearby.” Even in a less-blighted area near Disneyland, a boutique hotel went hurting for visitors because it wasn’t oriented toward family travelers, he noted. Larger corporate hotels close to Universal Studios, such as the Sheraton Universal, typically enjoy 80 percent occupancy rates, but Apodaca estimated that this hotel will experience occupancy closer to 60 percent, even if it offers rates under $100 a night. Local artwork But the NoHo project certainly isn’t banking entirely on tourists: It is designed to have broader appeal, featuring not only a landscaped pool area but a business center and meeting rooms that will display the work of local artists. Project architect Nikhil Kamat, principal at Irvine design firm nKlosures Inc., also designed the nearby IKON Hotel currently in the last stages of the permitting process. “The (Burbank) hotel is catering to business travelers and tourists visiting L.A. and local attractions – Universal, Hollywood, Six Flags – as well as local community for family reunions and graduations,” he said. The community is already enthusiastic. Ernesto Hidalgo, head of the planning and land use committee of the Midtown Noho Neighborhood Council, believes the hotel will continue to expand the economic success of the arts district. “The area where the hotel is located has remained stagnant. But this project will be a positive contribution toward revitalizing the neighborhood, creating jobs and promoting pedestrian-friendly businesses near the Red Line station,” said Hidalgo, who particularly likes the idea of showcasing local artists. Around the corner from the site, Lankershim Boulevard is fast-becoming the Valley’s walkable, urban core. Chain restaurants like Chipotle, Panera Bread and Pitfire Pizza compete with trendy tapas bar Bow & Truss and nightlife hotspots like the Federal Bar. The Laemmle NoHo 7 movie theater is the newcomer in an area that boasts more than a dozen performance stages, some in renovated movie palaces like El Portal. And multifamily development is booming in the region, with projects ranging from senior condos to luxury apartment buildings in various stages of construction. Last October, Chicago apartment developer Equity Residential acquired The Hesby, a 308-unit luxury apartment building built in 2013, for $126 million. Not far away on Vineland Avenue, the recent renovation of the beer-barrel-shaped Idle Hour Bar created a media splash that extended all the way to the pages of the New York Times. And last fall, Redondo Beach-based Urbanest Group proposed a new residential-retail complex at 11120 West Chandler Boulevard that would include 329 units in two, five-story buildings as well as 4,300 square feet of retail space at street level. The project proposal incorporates revamping the historic Weddington home, which belonged to the founding family of North Hollywood, and locating it on the site. Matthew Heyn, a broker with CBRE Group in Los Angeles, said rental rates in the arts district have increased by 20 percent in the past two years and vacancy is scarce. “There’s an edgy, kind of Hollywood feel that the tech and entertainment companies like there. It’s a cool spot to be and it’s becoming very in vogue,” he said. “It’s a lot different than the suburban feel you get in the rest of the Valley market.”

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