80.3 F
San Fernando
Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Room Upgrade

On the stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard between Hadden and Kewan avenues in Pacoima, the neighborhood is a hodge-podge of mostly old – and a little new. A combination doughnut-Chinese food shop in a mid-’90s strip mall stares across the street at a gas station at least 20 years older. Other denizens of the block include a car repair shop, an abandoned nightclub and a seemingly misplaced apartment building. But just up a bit there’s a shiny architectural gem completed in 2011, a Neighborhood City Hall that brings access to city services to this working-class neighborhood. In this unlikely setting, Bathia Hotels Investment Group, a North Hollywood hospitality company that owns more than a dozen small hotels in the Los Angeles area, wants to knock down the defunct club and build an upscale boutique hotel with a business meeting center. “We’ve been based in North Hollywood for the last 25 years, and have seen how that’s changed,” said David Desai, a principal partner in Bathia who is overseeing the project. “Pacoima is close to a lot of things, and we think there’s room for this.” The project, currently dubbed Pacoima Hotel, is certainly small – just 45 rooms and two stories tall with a construction price tag of roughly $3 million – but in a neighborhood where the few other nearby motels are questionable rent-by-the-hour establishments along San Fernando Road, the idea of a new development is huge. Bathia has taken an option on a 35,250-square-foot lot at 13535 Van Nuys Blvd. that was home to the El Girasol restaurant and nightclub and a large parking lot. The project was submitted last month to the L.A. City Planning Commission for approval, and Bathia wants to break ground late this year. “I think this project will be able to add to the area,” said Nikhil Kamat, an Orange County-based architect with firm nKlosures Inc., who designed the proposed hotel. But the neighborhood was hit hard by the recession, and despite small indicators of recovery, like some new shops and the sparkling city hall, finding clientele for a hotel might be tough. Pacoima is primarily a residential neighborhood, with pockets of retail and industrial properties. The nearest convention center is in Burbank by the airport, and the closest entertainment destinations are Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios, already served by many closer lodgings. There is a nearby airport, Whiteman, but it doesn’t serve commercial planes. And despite being sandwiched by the Ronald Reagan (118), Golden State (5) and Foothill (210) freeways, few cars exit for shopping, much less to visit any sites. Antonio Pizano, director of business development for the Valley Economic Development Center, said he has mixed feelings about the project. “In terms of the facade and aesthetics and what that can do for the area, it’s great,” he said. “In terms of it being a destination, I’m not sure. I can’t see people going to a convention in Burbank and then driving to Pacoima to stay.” Expansion plans Bathia’s portfolio of properties is filled with off-the-beaten track small hotels, including the independent 34-room Santa Clarita Motel near Magic Mountain and two Best Value Inn franchises in the South Bay. But the company has steadily grown, acquiring roughly one new hotel each year since 2000. Bathia lately has been focusing increasingly on developing its own projects from the ground up. Last month, the L.A. Planning Department approved plans for a boutique, 20-room hotel at the busy corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. The HLand Hotel will compete against other boutique hotels, including the larger 131-room BLVD Hotel & Suites and the Loews Hollywood Hotel, among others The two new projects are representative of Bathia’s strategy these days. It wants small lodging with fewer than 100 rooms but upscale, whether acquired or developed. Desai shrugs off the naysayers of the Pacoima project. “It may not be a tourist neighborhood, but it’s near the freeway, only a few minutes from Magic Mountain or down to Universal Studios,” said Desai. “And then there are local needs. This location is near Kaiser Permanente and not that far from the airport.” Room rates have not yet been set but Desai expects them not to be much higher than $100, despite the project’s upscale appearance. Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president at PKF Consulting USA in Los Angeles, says for hotels in non-tourist areas, other nearby businesses are important revenue drivers, which the Pacoima project could serve. “Basically, if there are business travelers, universities, hospitals or sports facilities and those sorts of things, then a hotel can be really needed,” he said. Kamat, Desai and Michael Elatt, a real estate broker who has worked with the company on several projects, have been out lobbying support for the project. “We’ve heard nothing but good things,” said Elatt, a broker with Global Executives Realty in Van Nuys. “And we want to make sure that we address any questions or issues with the project now, so that the whole neighborhood is comfortable with it.” Looking for clientele The Pacoima Chamber of Commerce has voiced its support, and more meetings are scheduled, trying to drum up support in local government and business circles. Still, there hasn’t been much development to speak of in the area. The most recent notable exception was Pacoima Plaza, a power center anchored by a Loews and Best Buy that opened in 2010. And that site contended with land-contamination issues that dragged on for years. But people familiar with the area say things have started to look up, with developments that were stalled during the recession getting a second look. VEDC has restarted work on a proposed business incubator at the site of a vacant auto repair shop on Van Nuys Boulevard. That incubator, near the planned hotel, would include meeting space on the second floor. Pacoima Hotel has incorporated two meeting rooms into its design, hoping to capitalize on the need for additional space for business meetings near the Neighborhood City Hall. The chamber of commerce also does not have its own meeting space. Pizano, of VEDC, thinks there will be a demand for the hotel, given the lack of meeting space. And despite Pacoima’s average household income at a paltry $49,000, according to the city, he expects some local demand for the rooms too. “I can see a case where you have people visiting their families and want to have a place to stay nearby that isn’t one of the less-desirable places on San Fernando Road,” he said. “And really, what is there right now? Anything is better than nothing.”

Featured Articles

Related Articles