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Designing the Dream of Abbot Kinney Hotel

The proposed site for the Abbot Kinney Hotel spans the boulevard from Broadway to Westminster. (Photo by Rich Kuras)

The proposed site for the Abbot Kinney Hotel spans the boulevard from Broadway to Westminster. (Photo by Rich Kuras)

Development plans and approvals are in the works for The Abbot Kinney Hotel, a modern eclectic 92-room, independently-owned boutique hotel on Abbot Kinney that spans the block between Broadway and Westminster.

Initial renderings include a new restaurant, spa, coffee shop, rooftop pool, community courtyard garden, edible rooftop garden, retail space and a valet port along Electric Avenue that accommodates 174 cars in an underground garage plus 72 bikes. The hotel also proposed two onsite shared cars for guests and a bike-sharing station as part of a city-wide program. There's at least a year of approvals and two years of construction before it would open. 

The mixed one- two- and three-story hotel, with a partial fourth floor under consideration, is a textural, multidimensional assemblage of glass, steel, and natural, reclaimed materials set back and staggered at varying heights behind the familiar facade of Abbot Kinney. Barring some structural remodeling and utility upgrades, such as burying power and phone lines underground, Joe’s and the Venice Place building with Primitivo will remain as is -- so will the shared community garden and private Sculpture Gardens Nursery located behind the restaurants with the stately melaleuca tree anchored at the center. The hotel’s new restaurant will go where Willie Jane (formerly Lilly’s) and the adjacent Cook's Garden are now, but it’s yet to be determined where or if Willie Jane will relocate. The edible garden, which sprouted up on an empty lot in June and supplies fresh veg for nearby restaurants, will relocate to the hotel's third-floor rooftop with solar-powered and timed irrigation, a few of many environmental details introduced by lead architect David Hertz FAIA, founder of Venice-based SEA, the Studio of Environmental Architecture. 

The goal is to create a zero net energy building that will use solar panels on the roof to produce as much or more power than the building will consume. It will have living walls of greenery, the edible rooftop garden, and outdoor hallways to both break up the massing of the hotel as well as create natural cooling and ventilation. The facade will incorporate reclaimed steel and other materials to evoke Venice history and its eclectic style. Natural wood paneling is a nod to craftsman homes, and reclaimed brick harkens back to the original brick-paved streets in the 1920s.

“The design will be an appropriate mix of Venice influences,” says property owner Dan Abrams, a Venice resident of 12 years, whose office is also in the Venice Place building. He sought a local architect who had both the vision and sensitivity to develop a project of this proportion in a neighborhood that’s known for its aversion to over-development. “That’s why I chose David Hertz as the architect. He’s been in Venice almost his entire life and has done tons of buildings in Venice. He knows the architecture around Venice really well, and our goal is not to have this thing that breaks the mold but something that looks like it’s always been here once it’s done.”

Rendering of the proposed Ray Hotel. Image: Venice Neighborhood Council

Rendering of the proposed Ray Hotel. Image: Venice Neighborhood Council

In 2007, plans for the Ray Hotel at 901 Abbot Kinney and Brooks, touted as a modern marvel of green architecture, were quashed by the West L.A. Planning Commission. It was largely opposed because it required a much greater height exception, but the prospect of a great city hotel resonated with Abrams and inspired him to try again once he purchased Venice Place and the parking lot along Electric in 2007 and then the edible garden lot and Ecole Claire Fontaine preschool bookended at Westminster two years ago.

The school could stay throughout the first phase of development and relocate after its lease is up, but that’s not for another six years, which is why there’s a phase two. Eventually the double lot will be built into adjoining commercial space, likely retail.

The Abbot Kinney Hotel proposed site plan. The numbers indicate the various one-, two-, three-, and four-story heights.

The original plan was to build condos or an apartment building or offices. Abrams says those were the other safer, more straightforward, and probably more lucrative options, but they weren't as interesting.

“There’s already a ton of tourists in Venice,” he says. “They’re coming from hotels in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and wherever else. Why not have a place for them to stay here if this is where they want to visit?” 

But he also envisions the Abbot Kinney Hotel as a local destination for events, charity auctions and even small weddings, which is why its composition and character has to be just right.

"There's a lot of value in keeping these buildings because they add character that's harder to reproduce with new building," says Hertz.

Hertz' award-winning designs throughout Venice include his office at 57 Market Street and his private residence on McKinley, which was filmed  in the Showtime series Californication.

 

While Abrams and Hertz are very intentionally, almost surgically, designing their hotel around, above and alongside existing structures and gardens to mesh modern architecture and amenities into the surrounding area, some of its composition will remain out of their control. Abrams owns the majority of properties on the block, but not all of them. The Second Community Baptist Church and the four-unit apartment building next door are staying put for now. 

Abrams says that he is in ongoing conversations with all stakeholders but appreciates and enjoys the inherent juxtaposition of organizations bumping up next to each other throughout Venice and especially on Abbot Kinney. 

“I didn't want to completely change the face of this street," he says. "I think these buildings are great. Any other traditional developer would scrape the site and start new. There would be a lot of benefits to that, a lot of economic benefits to that, and that’s not me. That’s not what I'm about. It’s an important part of the street and I take it seriously that I’m custodian of it for now.”

Abbot Kinney Hotel // 1033 Abbot Kinney Venice, CA 90291

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