InterContinental Hotels Group builds big in the City of Angels

(At the forefront Los Angeles' development boom is InterContinental Hotels Group, which is dropping off two big, loud properties right in downtown L.A.)

Los Angeles remains one of the most active and competitive markets in the U.S., and the city is experiencing a surge in development of upscale hotels. At the forefront of this development push is InterContinental Hotels Group, which is dropping two big, loud properties right in downtown L.A., adding more than 1,200 rooms to the city’s supply.

The properties in question are the 900-room InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, which is on track to open later this summer, as well as the 350-room Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown, which is accepting reservations as of April 15. Elie Maalouf, CEO, the Americas at IHG, said he wants the new hotels to become the center of gravity for downtown L.A., and with the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown towering 73 stories above the city streets (including what is being dubbed a “sky lobby” located on the 70th floor), it’s not difficult to imagine.

“When it opens, it will be the tallest building west of Chicago,” Maalouf said. The property is being developed by Korean Air inside the sprawling Wilshire Grand Center, a mixed-use development consisting of office space, retail space and the InterContinental. Some would have concerns about building a 1,100-foot structure in a seismically-active area, but Maalouf, originally a civil engineer by training, said the development is among the most professional and organized construction projects he has ever come across, and benefitted from cooperation with the city of Los Angeles.

The InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown's "sky lobby" will be located on the building's 70th floor.

A True Sky Scraper

“It’s a very safe building,” said Chris Park, SVP at Hanjin International Corp., a company owned by Korean Air and the owner and operator of the Wilshire Grand, in which the new InterContinental is being developed. “If there is a big [earthquake] coming, the only building that will stand up in the end is ours!”

The property is situated on a single block in the city’s entertainment district, near the Staples Center and LA Live. North of the hotel is the financial district, and it is within walking distance to the Los Angeles Convention Center. The idea for the development took root in 2009, a time when Park was still operating the Wilshire Grand, which closed two years later and subsequently demolished. Hanjin and Korean Air took note that there was no InterContinental property in downtown Los Angeles, and began negotiations with the hotel company in 2014, concluding them the following year.

According to Park, the Wilshire Grand and the InterContinental began construction during the height of the great recession, which actually turned out to be an asset.

“The city was behind us 100 percent, even the local unions,” he said. “Sometimes with a project of this size, where over a billion dollars is being spent in the development, the project can stall due to the size of the financing. Other times projects like this have challenges getting permissions or permits, but perhaps due to the timing we had no issues.”

Familiar Face

Under the shadow of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, a second IHG property is quickly coming together. The nearby Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown is being developed by Greenland USA, a subsidiary of Shanghai-based Greenland Holding Group. Maalouf said IHG’s relationship with Greenland is storied, with IHG having operated in China for more than 30 years, and Greenland owning eight IHG hotels back home.

Winston Yan, chief technical officer at Greenland USA, said the decision to work with IHG on its latest Los Angeles Indigo stems from strong brand recognition in Shanghai, with a large Indigo property located in a prominent area of the city.

“The market in Los Angeles is very competitive,” Yan said. “Just one block from us is a Marriott, then two blocks away are a number of four-star hotels, as well as the incoming InterContinental property. However, we feel very good about our Indigo in the sense that this one is quite unique and different.”

The hotel's designers relied on photographs, prints and patterns to give the hotel its desired aesthetic and color theory.


The Hotel Indigo Los Angeles
Downtown drew on actress Anna
May Wong for design inspiration.

One thing Yan said sets the Indigo apart from the nearby competition was the property’s willingness to get creative with the development. Though Hotel Indigo is a chain, each property is permitted to develop its own story and theme. Using this as a launch pad, the Los Angeles property was developed considering the storyline of Anna May Wong, the first successful Chinese-American movie star who resided in L.A.

“What is different about Hotel Indigo is the amount of art found throughout the property,” said Valeria Lassalle, senior designer at hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, designer of the property. “Indigo requires very large-scale printouts to match 20-foot-high walls, so we were able to add patterns to images of [Wong’s] life in order to successfully utilize images that normally we wouldn’t be able to, while staying true to the overall image.”

According to Maalouf, these two hotels will be joined later this year by two new Kimpton properties—the 216-room Everly, which is located at the base of the Hollywood Hills and is slated to open April 2017, as well as the La Peer Hotel, which will consist of 105 guestrooms and will be the first hotel to open in West Hollywood’s design district.

“We have almost 60 hotels in L.A. right now, with over a dozen in our pipeline, and this is a tent-pole year for us,” Maalouf said. “It’s going to mark a change in our trajectory in the city, and in the choices that guests and businesses have.