Dan Abrams’ Abbot Kinney Hotel proposal gets a redesign and a new name

By Gary Walker

An architect’s rendering of the 4,000-square-foot “Outdoor Living Room” at the center  of the Venice Place Project Image by Wynkoop Properties courtesy of Dan Abrams

An architect’s rendering of the 4,000-square-foot “Outdoor Living Room” at the center
of the Venice Place Project
Image by Wynkoop Properties courtesy of Dan Abrams

The Abbot Kinney Hotel proposal is back — this time with a different name and design changes intended to help it blend more evenly with the trendy streetscape around it.

Film producer Dan Abrams still hopes to build a three-story, 84-room boutique hotel interwoven among existing buildings on a block-long stretch of Abbot Kinney Boulevard that’s bounded by Westminster Avenue, Electric Avenue and Broadway.

But now Abrams plans to break new construction down into several detached buildings instead of a single structure, creating several pedestrian walkways throughout the project.

Abrams has also rechristened his proposal as the Venice Place Project to better elaborate its intended mix of hospitality, creative office space, retail and restaurant components among amenities such as a rooftop garden and a bicycle-sharing center. The project is centered around a 4,000-square-foot communal “Outdoor Living Room” shared by the hotel’s lobby, a new restaurant/bar, an office suite and the existing Primitivo restaurant.

“In reality, it’s more than just a hotel,” Abrams said. “Certainly the most significant [component] of the development that is coming to Abbot Kinney is the hotel, but from a lot of what we’d heard, we felt that a lot of people thought that the entire project was a hotel. But it was always intended to be a mixed-use project.”

Abrams worked with prominent Venice architect David Hertz and Culver City-based contextual builders REthink Development to design five detached buildings on nine lots and connect them through a series of walkways, a move Abrams described as the most significant alteration to the prior design.

“We felt like this helped address some people’s concerns about the massing of the project. By separating buildings, we found that it actually fits in better with the neighborhood and sort of echoes some of the walk-street experiences that you have around Venice,” said Abrams, a Venice resident who has maintained an office above Primitivo for more than a decade.

Through building separations and greater sidewalk set-backs, the project has lost about 3,420 square feet of mass, said REthink principal architect Greg Reitz.

“What we have now is a collection of multiple buildings that have an identity on the street. You’re going to have a different feeling when you pass one side of the project than when you pass another. They’re separate and distinct,” Reitz said.

In the new design, the buildings are set back further from the street in order to create a wider sidewalk in some areas. Reitz said set-backs along Electric
Avenue will increase two additional feet in order to plant trees along a new side-
walk area.

Abrams called the central courtyard the heart of the project.

“It’s meant to be a great place to hang out,” he said.

Abrams recently hosted an open house to show his new designs to a small group of invited community members.

Ira Koslow, a longtime Venice resident who serves on the Venice Neighborhood Council, attended the gathering and said he found the new design interesting.

“I actually like the new iteration and the amenities that he’s planning for the hotel. The previous [design plan] just looked like a mass structure on Abbot Kinney, and now as you’d walk down Abbot Kinney each [building] is different,” Koslow said.

Nevertheless, Koslow remains opposed to  the project because he thinks it will bring more traffic congestion to nearby streets.

“The big problem is going to be that they are completely going to destroy traffic [flow] on Electric Avenue. He’s either going to have to [petition] to make it a one way street or remove the parking that’s there now,” said Koslow, who lives nearby on Park Avenue.

Abbot Kinney Merchants Association co-chairman Don Novack — a co-owner of Hal’s Bar and Grill, which operated on Abbot Kinney for 30 years before announcing its pending relocation to Playa Vista — agreed that traffic on Electric could be problematic  but cited several mitigating factors.

“When people come to a hotel, they take taxis. They don’t drive. And for those who drive, they have [access to] an underground parking garage,” Novack said.

Novack also believes that a new hotel in Venice would attract tourists who would otherwise book rooms in Santa Monica or Marina del Rey.

A survey released in spring by the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board stated that Venice has only about 466 hotel rooms and that hotel visitor spending per day in Venice is about half of what it is in many other parts of the city.

“Adding another hotel to Venice would serve to further stimulate local business and keep tourist dollars in our community,” Venice Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Lasman said.

Venice resident Judith Goldman, an ardent opponent of the area’s booming short-term vacation rental industry, disagrees.

Goldman doesn’t think the hotel will do much to dissuade vacation rentals either, saying vacation rentals undercut hotel prices to pull tourists away from commercial zones and into residential areas.

“That’s why thousands and thousands of them have proliferated in Venice, Santa Monica and other coastal areas where many hotels exist. The hotel will not alleviate short-term rental problems in residential neighborhoods and will potentially have negative impacts on the adjacent residential neighbors,” Goldman said.

Lasman said the chamber believes a new hotel will stimulate the local economy but doesn’t think a boutique hotel will have much of an impact on the short-term rental market.

“These businesses are already overbooked for the summer months,” Lasman said. “I don’t see Venice as anywhere close to reaching a saturation point.”

The latest design for the Venice Place Project was submitted to city planners in April and awaits a hearing before a zoning administrator, Reitz said.

Abrams said he realizes that not everyone will be happy with the new design and that traffic-related issues may still present a challenge. But he’s also optimistic that the project’s new configuration will be well-received.

“We have done our best to answer as many of those concerns that we can and figure out ways to improve the project, and we feel like we’ve done that with this last round of changes,” Abrams said.