With a unanimous vote on Monday night, West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission gave its blessing to a plan to transform the Piazza del Sol building on Sunset Boulevard from an office building into a boutique hotel, and rehabilitate the historic building in the process.
Located at 8439 Sunset Blvd. at Queen’s Road, the four-story Italian Renaissance Revival style building was erected in 1927. Designed by architect Charles Sherman Cobb, it was originally an apartment building known as the Hacienda Arms Apartments, later renamed the Coronet Apartments. Following a 1983 fire, it was converted into an office building.
Plans call for the second and third floors of the building to be transformed into 34 hotel rooms, as architect Ralph Gentile explained. The fourth floor will be used for meeting space and a restaurant and lounge with space for live music. The ground floor will be the hotel lobby and office area. The famous Katana Japanese restaurant and sushi bar on the ground floor is expected to remain.
Fran Offenhauser, a West Hollywood-based historic architect who will oversee the historic restoration aspects of the 56,000 square-foot project, said the plan “extends the useful economic life of the building.”
The commission, as well as members of the public, was overwhelmingly in favor of the project.
“This is the best kind of adaptive reuse project; it is a project which returns the use to as close to the original use as possible,” said Commissioner Ed Levin.
Commissioner Cathy Blaivas called the building “a jewel on Sunset Boulevard,” and said it was a “perfect example of adaptive reuse.”
Meanwhile, Commissioner Yawar Charlie was excited about the project since, among other things, it will restore the building’s interiors to better match the exterior. The interiors currently look like a typical 1980s era office building.
The developer, Mani Brothers Real Estate Group, is asking permission to add ten feet in height to the building by constructing a rooftop lounge and elevator shaft, both of which will be placed at the rear of the rooftop and not visible from the street.
Mani Brothers is also requesting permission to add a rooftop pool deck with a stainless steel pool. Levin was worried about people standing on the pool deck being visible from the street, and but acknowledged that was a minor concern and merely asked that the pool deck be kept as low as possible.
New construction projects are typically required to commit 1% of the cost to city’s Urban Art Program, but Mani Brothers is asking that fee be waived. The Commission had no issue with that request since, as Levin noted, the amount of money they will spend restoring the building will far exceed the amount it would have paid into the Urban Art fund. Or as Commissioner Gail Ostergren put it, “the building is the art.”
The preservation group Los Angeles Conservancy, which has had an agreement to monitor changes to the building since the 1983 fire, gave its blessing to the project. In a letter, Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy, said, “We believe the changes will not result in any substantive adverse impacts.”
The plan also received the approval of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA). Resident Victor Omelczenko, speaking on behalf of the WHPA, called Piazza del Sol “one of only two trifectas on Sunset,” because it is has an historic designation on a national, state and city level. The only other building on Sunset with all three designations is the Sunset Tower Hotel.
Restoration plans call for seismic upgrades and making the building ADA accessible, plus replacement of the current windows with new but historically appropriate windows.
Parking for the site is beneath the building, as well as in an existing four-story parking garage, which is located directly behind the building in the boundaries of the city of Los Angeles.
Mani Brothers Real Estate Group, a West Hollywood-based firm with a large portfolio of office buildings, has four other office buildings on Sunset, at 9000, 9200, 9201 and 9220 Sunset Blvd.