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Monday, May 16, 2022

Hollywood Comeback

The day the Beverly Garland opened in 1972, John Wayne was in attendance. The iconic tough guy took a tray of champagne the owners were passing around and tossed it off the seventh-story balcony, screaming, “Real men don’t drink champagne.” Those are the types of stories James Crank, the hotel’s second-generation owner, has from growing up at the North Hollywood hotel named after his mother, Beverly Garland, an actress who made her name as Fred MacMurray’s second wife, Barbara Harper Douglas, in the popular ’60s sitcom “My Three Sons.” “She was a household name in that period and there were stars around all the time,” recalled Crank, 45. Garland died six years ago and over the years the lodging lost cache, but now Crank is aiming to bring it back into the limelight. The formerly flagged Holiday Inn hotel at 4222 Vineland Ave. is being transformed into an upscale boutique at a cost of $20 million. The idea is it once again can draw the local studio crowd but also visitors to the burgeoning North Hollywood arts and entertainment district. The 7-acre property will feature a new outdoor garden and wedding venue, a redesigned lobby and a complete overhaul of the guest rooms, including replacement of everything from flooring to drapes. And once the hotel is recast, its name will also change to simply The Garland. “It’s a full-fledged renovation and transformation. Not much will be left untouched,” said Scott Mills, general manager of the hotel. “The rooms are going to be empty boxes that get completely redone.” The NoHo Arts District is about a mile and a half from the hotel and has seen revitalization over the last few years, with the opening of trendy bars and eateries, upscale lofts and apartments, and one of the most used Metro stations in the city. Last summer, IKON Hospitality Group of North Hollywood, which owns several corporate-chain hotels throughout the L.A. area, began plans to construct its own $4 million, 43-room boutique at Tujunga Avenue and Weddington Street. “North Hollywood has always been a soft corner of the Valley and it’s been missing this type of lodging,” said Nikhil Kamat, principal at Orange County design company nKlosures Inc. and the Ikon hotel’s architect. “It’s a great area and close to a lot of happening restaurants and shops.” Community roots Garland was most famous for her appearance on “My Three Sons,” but she also had spots in “The Bing Crosby Show” and a guest appearance in the first season of “Twilight Zone.” Her career spanned about half a century, appearing in shows as early as 1950. Her last TV appearance was in 2002 as a contestant on a TV mom’s edition of “The Weakest Link.” She was the first one voted off. The story of the Beverly Garland started in 1970, when the actress’ husband, Fillmore Crank, a real estate developer and contractor, purchased the land in North Hollywood from country movie crooner Gene Autry. The couple wanted to build a resort-style hotel and teamed up with the founder of the famous Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas, John Kell Houssels Jr., to realize the vision. It featured 255 rooms and suites, a conference center, restaurant, swimming pool with a poolside bar and whirlpool, tennis courts and a fitness center. Barbara Nance, co-chair of the planning, land use, housing and transportation committee for the Mid-Town NoHo Neighborhood Council, said Garland was a regular in North Hollywood through the years. “We all knew who she was. She always felt like a neighbor and not the detached star,” said Nance. “She’s one of our own and we’re thrilled that they will do something like this.” James Crank grew up at the hotel, and has worked there his whole life, tending to the grounds when he was 13. Hollywood anecdotes roll off his tongue. “There’s even a rumor that Kurt Cobain asked Courtney Love to marry him at the hotel,” he said. “That’s just the way it was.” Crank noted popular television shows such as “NCIS” and “Parks and Recreation” have filmed at the site. The hotel has been upgraded over the years, most recently in 2008 and 2009 when new outdoor furniture was installed, a bar and fireplace built next to the pool and the conference room upgraded, among other improvements. But Crank, whose father died in 1999, decided it was in need of a transformation as boutiques took over the upper end of the hospitality business. “We’ve been restricted in being able to access the studio crowd since Holiday Inn isn’t exactly on their preferred list,” said Crank, who is financing the renovations with hotel revenue. So, in October, Crank notified InterContinental Hotels Group PLC of Denham, England that he was dropping the flag of its Holiday Inn chain in anticipation of the renovation project. The hotel wasn’t doing badly, Mills said, with a roughly 80 percent occupancy rate year-round that brought in roughly $13 million in room revenue with another $7 million from filming fees, corporate meetings and other sources. “We’re consistently busy year over year. And during summer, we’re sold out for three to four months,” he said. But he expects it to do even better once it is renovated. Room rates that are now about $150 to $190 a night will jump about $40, increasing room revenue by about a quarter. The renovation will be done in stages to reduce room closures and minimize the impact on guests. Once completed this summer, the boutique will feature 242 guest rooms and 14 suites, making it on the larger side for a Valley boutique. Community renaissance The hotel also is opening a new restaurant with Warren Schwartz as executive chef. Schwartz attained some local popularity in the last few years as managing partner and executive chef of trendy Los Angeles eatery Westside Tavern. Nance from the Neighborhood Council said the renovation will benefit the whole community, and she hopes it will bring more money into local businesses. “We definitely need nice hotels to attract people to the area and especially our Arts District,” said Nance, who has lived in North Hollywood for more than 50 years. “If people stay here, they’ll shop at our stores and eat at our restaurants.” Crank said that while serving the Hollywood studio crowd has been a key driver of the project, he definitely sees his transformed hotel as serving the broader neighborhood. “We really feel like North Hollywood is in a renaissance period,” said Crank. “And we want to be part of this change that’s occurring. I don’t think we’d ever have been able to justify this without the area’s upward trajectory.” Hospitality consultant Bruce Baltin, a senior vice president at PKF Consulting USA in Los Angeles, noted North Hollywood is a destination for those in the entertainment industry, though it’s not as well known by tourists. “The entertainment industry likes boutique hotels, so this makes perfect sense,” Baltin said. “Someone who is coming here for the first time doesn’t have the same knowledge as we do. They think about Universal City first, but North Hollywood is starting to get more attention.”

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