Developers of the Wilshire Grand project in downtown Los Angeles announced Tuesday that InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) will operate the 900-room hotel included in the $1.1 billion project.
"Deconstruction" of the old historic Wilshire Grand Hotel began nearly two years ago under the watch of new owners Korean Air and Hanjin Group. Earlier this year, more than 200 trucks poured the concrete foundation of what will become technically the tallest building in the western United States. In addition to the hotel, it will include 400,000 square feet of office space.
The hotel - set to open in 2017 - will have a "sky lobby" located on the 70th floor of the building. At 900 rooms, it will become the largest InterContinental hotel in the Americas region.
"The InterContinental brand is well-respected by world travelers and embodies the luxury experience we intend to provide at the Wilshire Grand," said Heather Cho, vice president of Hanjin International in a statement. "IHG recognized the potential of this significant project and that was important in our decision."
IHG owns eight other hotel brands, including Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, but Hanjin and Korean Air have known since breaking ground that the Wilshire Grand would be a "four-star plus" hotel. “InterContinental Hotels & Resorts is IHG’s luxury brand," said Kirk Kinsell, president, the Americas at IHG. "We remain focused on building its presence in top-tier cities and resorts around the globe."
That the company would consider downtown L.A. "top tier" is a sign of the place's recent resurgence, said Carol Schatz, President and CEO of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.
"It tells us that a very important luxury brand hotel is going to be making their flagship property in downtown Los Angeles -something that twenty years ago could not have been conceived of, " Schatz told KPCC. "Downtown was not a place where luxury brands were even going to look."
Schatz said the Ritz Carlton and maybe the Omni are the only downtown hotels that could be seen as luxury brands.
Luxury or not, a 900-room hotel in downtown will help begin to address a problem tourism and hospitality experts have identified in Los Angeles: a need for hotel rooms. Some estimate that the city needs at least 4000 more room to properly serve the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board estimates that this year, a record 43.2 million people will visit the Los Angeles area. That number is expected to grow to 50 million by 2020.