OCEAN AVE — A local developer submitted plans Thursday for a 22-story luxury hotel designed by Santa Monica resident and famed architect Frank Gehry.
The hotel proposal, now referred to as the “Ocean Avenue Project,” includes 125 hotel rooms and 22 condominiums as well as two stories of groundfloor restaurants and retail where Ocean Avenue meets Santa Monica Boulevard.
Developers have also planned a 36,000-square-foot art museum immediately north of the site that will incorporate two landmarked structures and a new museum building, also designed by Gehry.
It’s the first building Gehry has designed in his hometown in 25 years.
“Built on its own, people will see it. Add the museum and people will come and experience it,” said Jeffrey Worthe, president of Worthe Real Estate Group, one of two groups involved in the development.
Alleyways that cut through the site would be eliminated under the plan, and in some cases turned into walkways for pedestrians. One former section of an alley leads to a publicly-accessible elevator that goes up to an observation deck so that members of the public can look out over the ocean.
Affordable housing above and beyond what’s required for the project and units to replace 19 rent-controlled units will be built onsite abutting Second Street.
A three-floor, 460-space subterranean parking garage will fit underneath.
The project is expected to generate $72.7 million per year in direct and indirect spending, 1,394 jobs during operations and $4 million in new tax revenues to the city, according to Worthe Real Estate Group.
M. David Paul Associates and the Worthe Real Estate Group have been planning the development for the past six years. M. David Paul Associates owned the majority of the site since 1977, and acquired the northern portion in 2007, Worthe said.
They went to Gehry Partners for their reputation for unique designs and world class projects.
Gehry’s office is a warehouse-style structure in Playa Vista, just off of Interstate 405. The open space, in which new architects work next to their more experienced counterparts, is cluttered with models and mockups of various projects planned for Manhattan and Philadelphia.
In a wide, back corner are two scale models of parts of Santa Monica, which show the city by the sea in detailed wood block formations littered with small tree replicas.
Architects use the model to put the proposed hotel in context with the rest of the city, said Tensho Takemori, a partner at Gehry Partners LLP.
Many of the buildings in Downtown fall within the two- to five-story range. That prompted designers to set the hotel’s main tower, which hits 244 feet, back from the street edge and create a two-story building at the base to prevent the ever-dreaded canyon feel and avoid problems with shadow.
Several dozen models of the proposed hotel — mocked up in different materials from stone to mirrored glass to stark metal — were lined up on an adjacent wall.
Architects chose to go with a white material to play off of other prominent Santa Monica buildings, and attempted to marry an art deco feel with Gehry’s distinctive style.
The finished product looks like the tall building is rippling in a stiff ocean breeze, like a sail.
It’s meant to evoke the ocean, blue skies and clouds, Takemori said.
Although the project has a complete design, it’s only a starting point meant to give the community a detailed plan to begin discussions in a number of community meetings expected to start up in March, Worthe said.
“We think it’s good, but let’s work with the community to make it better,” he said.
The design and site plan has evolved over the last six years as the developers worked to incorporate the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element, a document that outlines development for the city, and the Downtown Specific Plan discussions that are now in progress.
The museum component, for example, didn’t emerge until two years ago, Worthe said.
Prominent in the early Downtown Specific Plan discussions was a desire for “iconic architecture,” a phrase oft-used by consultants but poorly defined.
One example brought up several times at a December 2012 meeting referenced the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, also designed by Gehry.
Although the firm has a few well-noted buildings under its belt, it’s impossible to plan ahead for “iconic” status, Takemori said, noting, “This ain’t a soufflé.”
“You can’t make it up, but you can set the environment for it to succeed,” Takemori said. The use of the site, its location, how it relates to the rest of the area and whether or not the architecture captures the essence of the place all contribute to how a building sticks in the mind.
Worthe hopes that the strength of the design and accessible areas will resonate with Santa Monicans.
“We want something that we’re proud of and the community is proud of,” he said.
Visit oceanavenueproject.com for more information.