downtown los angeles

Ideas for Pasadena: “W Hotel Pasadena” Has a Nice Ring to It

Imagine the famous "W" seen in the Pasadena skyline

So a few months back while checking out some retail space for a potential restaurant, I learned that the 12-story AT&T office building located between Old Town Pasadena and Paseo Colorado was quietly on the market for sale. The aging office building had long lost its ability to command top rents because of its dated interior that will need tons of remodeling done to bring it up to Class A office standards. In this economic climate? It looks like this office building will be on the market for awhile.

However, that could be a good thing if it attracts another kind of investor.

What makes this office building very unique are two things, 1) it’s an existing 12-story building which would be incredibly hard to build again in a city full of NIMBYs, and 2) the location is the best you can possibly be in Pasadena. Why? Just look at where it’s located. The AT&T building is centrally located and is literally surrounded by Old Town Pasadena, Paseo Colorado, the Civic Center, and the Pasadena Convention Center, with direct access to the Memorial Park Gold Line station and 110 freeway via Arroyo Pkwy. It’s literally right smack-dab in the middle of everything!

A little exploring of the property reveals that this AT&T building would be an absolutely incredible location for a hotel, but not just any hotel, a W Hotel. Why? Because W Hotels have the kind of international brand recognition that attracts other big names that bring more investment and jobs and tax revenues. Not only that, a W Hotel would be the powerful “glue” that finally binds and connects Old Town Pasadena with Paseo Colorado and the Civic Center. That kind of pedestrian connection cannot be underestimated in the context of a maturing urban environment.

Are you listening Sam Nazarian?

The scenario is perfect as there is already multiple levels of parking in the back to satisfy city parking requirements and plenty of unused space around the property to convert to outdoor dining for the hotel lounges/cafes. It’s also only one block from the Memorial Park Gold Line station where international and domestic visitors can get from LAX -> Union Station -> W Hotel Pasadena easily and conveniently.

The concept of rethinking obsolete is nothing new, of course, as many office buildings have been adaptively reused in LA for other purposes, especially in Downtown LA where numerous beautiful historic office buildings have been converted to lofts and condos and are given another second chance at life.

In order for the AT&T building to ever become lucrative for its owner(s), it must pour millions into renovations, so why not woo the right developer to come and do the job right? In my opinion, a W Hotel would be perfect.

"W" is in an incredible location centrally located in Downtown Pasadena surrounded by everything within walking distance

The current 12-story AT&T building sits in a strategic location ideal for a hotel conversion

Imagine this dowdy, lifeless front entrance to this office building converted into a beautiful lobby entrance to a new W Hotel

Imagine a W Hotel lobby like this one in Westwood replacing the lifeless and dowdy current entrance of the AT&T office building (Image courtesy of whatahotel.com)

New updated windows could give the building an entirely different look

The outdoor plaza with a water fountain centerpiece could become more inviting and updated with better access to Colorado Blvd

This subterranean area that is no longer used can be reborn as an outdoor space for a new club/lounge concept for a W Hotel

And plenty of parking for hotel guests and fulfilling city parking requirements

13 Comments

  1. Great Idea. Just one thing: Sam Nazarian is SLS; the W Group is part of Starwood. THAT SAID: There is clearly precedent for this type of retrofit on the part of the W chain; the Westwood flagship was formerly student/then senior housing before being converted — VERY SUCCESSFULLY — to hotel operations.

    And if there’s an economic environment that would be better for such a boutique hotel venture than Pasadena (given that the only other nearby fashionable option is the Langham — formerly Huntington/Ritz-Carlton), I can’t imagine it’s MUCH better.

    • Yup I know Steven! I just mentioned him because he was just in the LA Times for taking over the Palihouse NEXT TO the W Hollywood. In my post, I was saying that the W name attracts other big names. I’m hoping that someone like Sam Nazarian has the connections (which I know he does) to W or another brand of the caliber.

  2. doug says

    I would kill for that subterranean area to be a great new outdoor restaurant of some kind. Pasadena has a strange lack of outdoor eateries like Home and Alcove in Los Feliz. One of the town’s rare shortcomings.

  3. Robb says

    (1) There are two other Starwood hotels within a few blocks of the property (Sheraton and Westin)… I think a lot depends on if they want to open a third hotel to compete with the other two… if the other two hotels are always full, then I could see it happening. But if they’re only really full during New Year’s, then it’d probably be better trying to woo another brand. (Maybe The Standard?)

    (2) I’ve often walked by this property and thought that there’s enough space between the building and the street to put ground-level streetfront businesses along Colorado to better tie Old Town to Paseo Colorado. You don’t even need to really build anything; with only a few modifications, it’d lend itself well to outdoor dining. I think right now is the best opportunity to do something like that.

    • Robb – There were rumors that W Hotel was going to open one up at the corner of Fair Oaks and Walnut a few years ago (what DS references below). So if that’s true, W Hotel Starwood has already seriously considered Pasadena. I think this location would be 100 times better than Fair Oaks and Walnut because it is centrally located, walkable to everything, reuses an obsolete building, etc.

  4. That’s a pretty great idea. Pasadena needs a luxury hotel in old town. The Langham is great, but it would be lovely to have guests stay somewhere upscale and also be centrally located.

    Weren’t they going to build a W hotel next to that empty lot by the Beckham Grill ? What happened to that plan ?

  5. Lawrence says

    This is a wonderful idea and the perfect use for this space. As Steven mentioned, this type of re-use is not unique for W or for hotels in general. Although Starwood operates 2 properties in the area, the W brand targets a distinct clientele from the Sheraton or Westin. This would also form a much needed bridge between Old Town and the Playhouse district.

    If W is not interested there are other great boutique hotel brands that could do well in that space including Kimpton Hotels, or the Andaz brand for Hyatt to name a few.

    @DS – there were rumors that a W Hotel and Residences were going to be built adjacent to the Beckham grill at Walnut and Fair Oaks as Brigham mentioned, but those plans seem to have fallen through as evidenced by the empty plot of land that remains.

  6. Jefe says

    A good idea to be sure–such a project would likley make much better use of the street edge spaces. Plus Pasadena needs a hotel in this market segment (i.e. something hip). Not to mention, can you imagine the room rates they could demand for a hotel ON the parade route?

  7. anita says

    terrific idea, b! i agree that something more hip needs to come to pasadena in terms of hotels. the sheraton on green and hilton on los robles are a bit shabby.

  8. DougGold says

    you know, if you’re looking for chunks of the town that could be better utilized, i’ve always thought that big empty plot of land at the corner of Fair Oaks and Walnut would be a great place for Cracker Barrel to plant their foot in SoCal.

  9. What a great idea– get it done! :) I love the look of the photoshopped W on the AT&T bldg. And the thought of that big sunken area being an outdoor restaurant is fantastic. Your commenter is right; a strange lack of great outdoor eating spaces in Pasadena!

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