A nine-story hotel on the southwest corner of Robertson and Beverly boulevards?
That was the idea that local developer Jason Illoulian proposed during a neighborhood meeting on Thursday night. The idea was met with mixed reactions. Several residents living nearby were strongly opposed, saying nine stories was far too high, while other residents and nearby business owners liked the idea, hoping it could help revitalize Robertson Boulevard, which has a number empty storefronts just south of Beverly Boulevard.
Emphasizing that this was merely a preliminary proposal, Illoulian said he wanted input from the community early in the development process to help create a building people would be happy with.
“This is where we start the project, not where we end it,” Illoulian told the group of approximately 30 people attending the meeting.
Through his real estate development company, Faring Capital, Illoulian owns the entire block on the south side of Beverly Boulevard between Robertson and Clark Drive. Current city zoning allows for a four-story building there. Since the block is in a “mixed-use overlay zone,” which encourages both retail and residential units in the same project, buildings there can go another story (10 feet) higher. State law also allows the project to add an additional floor (10 more feet) if it includes “affordable housing” for low-income residents. Thus, a project can go up to six stories in height under the existing regulations.
However, since the building near Clark Drive abuts existing residential apartment buildings, Illoulian is proposing to break up the massing on that block. Rather than doing six stories across the entire block between Robertson and Clark, he suggested having just three stories near Clark, but nine stories near Robertson.
“We think it’s better to do three [stories] and nine [stories] rather than six [stories] across,” Illoulian said.
Several of the attendees who own homes nearby were aghast at the idea of nine stories, noting that such height could hurt their property values. “We’ll fight nine, but would love four,” said one person. Another said, “This is beautiful. The problem is the height.”
However, resident Amanda Goodwin, who is a candidate for the West Hollywood City Council in the March 7 election, reminded attendees to keep an open mind and work with Illoulian. She noted that he has a record of creating projects that residents like, pointing to a residential project currently under construction on Doheny Drive, just above Santa Monica Boulevard, where the old Christmas tree and pumpkin patch lot used to be, that residents are happy with.
Going up to nine stories would require approval from the West Hollywood City Council, but Illoulian reminded attendees that the area already has several buildings nearby that are that tall – the 8899 Beverly building on Beverly Boulevard, the Pacific Theatres building on Robertson and several buildings at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
The three stories near Clark Drive would have ground floor retail for shops and restaurants with residential units on the upper two floors, plus a rooftop swimming pool. The nine stories near Robertson Boulevard would have ground floor retail and a high-end luxury hotel on the floors above, possibly including residential units. The hotel would be called The Perry, a name chosen in honor of Illoulian’s uncle, who loved to stay in luxury hotels. It could have as many as 130 rooms, plus an enclosed restaurant on the top floor with sweeping vistas.
The upper floors of the entire building would be set back ten feet or more so as not to create a giant wall and overwhelm Beverly Boulevard. Additionally, the ground floor retail spaces would have varying setbacks from the sidewalk to create the feeling of separate buildings and add more of a neighborhood feeling, or a “human scale” as Illoulian phrased it. He cited the varying setbacks of the retail buildings along Melrose Place, between Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard, as an effect he hoped to emulate with this building.
Richard Giesbret, president of the West Hollywood West Residents Association, praised the setbacks and the entire building. He, too, noted that Illoulian is known for cooperating with residents.
This block of Beverly Boulevard is also home to the building housing the historic Herman Miller Furniture Company, a building Illoulian intends to keep and restore. The building, which dates back to the late 1940s, was the only commercial building designed by Charles and Ray Eames, according to Roy Oldenkamp, head of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance. The Eames husband-and-wife team were much better known for designing mid-century modern furniture (including the famed Eames lounge chair), as well as residential houses. The Eames building, at 8806 Beverly Blvd., currently houses the DDC (Domus Design Collection) high-end furniture showroom. The building currently at the corner of Beverly and Robertson houses Michael Aram, a home decor shop that opened in July of last year.
Preserving the Eames building, which the preservation alliance hopes to get designated as a “historic cultural resource,” will be a feat since the project calls for three levels of underground parking. Illoulian reported the Eames building would be carefully supported with stilts while they dig the parking garage beneath it.
Architect Benjamin Anderson of the Culver City-based R&A Design, Inc., told WEHOville that he and Illoulian have been planning the project for the past 18 months, soliciting input from many people and visiting other sites for inspiration. While no finalized drawings have been done, his initial sketches call for closing the alley behind Robertson that opens onto Beverly. The alley would be shifted to open on Clark Drive and would be at least 20 feet wide to allow for delivery and trash trucks. Additionally, the entrance for the underground parking garage and the hotel would be along Clark Avenue.
Several other community meetings will be held regarding the project in the coming months. Illoulian also offered to meet individually with people about their concerns.
After taking a closer look at this property today, it seems as though the correct architect could and should be inspired by the Eames Building. It could in essence become the ground level pediment of an overall concept. Simplicity, not a bloated Gehryesque facsimile.
Is this even within the city of WeHo?
I don’t get this, there is an alley between the Clark building which is also Historic. So they want to build on 2 historic buildings and what about the alley?
That corner needs something special that will also embrace the Eames Building. I’m sure Jason will be able to pull it off but don’t feel that the initial design rendering has got it right. It feels well short of Robinson Lane and the potential for this important corner in the Fashion/Design District.
Greed killed Robertson Boulevard. A number of small owner operated shops were driven out by greedy landlords and overzealous real estate brokers. The same thing happened immediately East of La Cienega on Melrose. Other areas that are booming such as Melrose and San Vicente are not immune to this.
Robertson Blvd needs revitalization now before it becomes a toxic wasteland of empty storefronts. This would go a long way to bringing back much needed energy and tax revenue.
Let’s see now…it’s the good old electioneering period. This shouldn’t take much time to get approved.
Hopefully this project can revitalize that part of Robertson. Ever since the talent agency moved out the Pacific Theaters building, this street has been dying a slow death. Also it is important to note that Hotels have the least significant traffic impact because people staying there generally do not have cars and are coming and going during non rush hour periods so this could actually be the best use of that corner.
It’s a trade-off – a reasoned idea with benefits, not a brazen land grab like so many others.
West Hollywood and LA residents on Clark benefit. The alternative 6-story block does not have similar benefits.
The owner was clear and deliberate, distinctly unlike many developments proposed in the city.
Planning and Council should take note.
Alison, we can only hope that a reverse conversion can take place with so many hotels and the rooms become condo’s or apartments when the hotels don’t work out.
As far as the hotel parking using Clark St. I believe that is unacceptable. Commercial using residential streets for entrance and exiting parking is proper.
how many hotels does this City need?
“The only commercial building designed by Charles & Ray Eames” – I didn’t know it existed but now that I look at it on Google Street, I can see the clean lines of mid-century modernism that defined Eames furniture. I’m glad that this building will be preserved and restored. It deserves the attention. Frankly, the building on the south/west corner (also, at one time, Armani Casa, if I remember correctly) wouldn’t be missed. But this intersection is always busy and often a jammed cluster F#@*. How a hotel will work there is anyone’s guess, but it’s not going to help… Read more »