Remodeling the Holiday Inn in downtown Santa Monica so it soars to 195 feet is a "desire, not a need," Tom Corcoran, the chairman of the hotel's parent company told the city's Planning Commission this week.
The Holiday Inn is proposing to convert its existing building into three towers with heights of 50, 80 and 195 feet.
The Holiday Inn is less than .5 miles from where another developer proposes building a Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Hampton Inn. At 120 Colorado Ave., it's also on the corner of Ocean Avenue, where two other tall hotel towers are proposed by the Fairmont Miramar at Ocean and Wilshire Boulevard and by Worthe Real Estate Group at Ocean and Santa Monica Boulevard.
At a Planning Commission meeting Wednesday night, when the main item on the agenda was downtown circulation, about a half dozen residents said adding more high-rises to Ocean Avenue would turn Santa Monica into Miami Beach.
"We want to be able to see the ocean, it’s a treasure us," said Taffy Patton, co-chair of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition. "We want to smell the ocean breezes."
Corcoran, Felcor Lodging Trust chairman, attended the meeting to ask commissioners to consider allowing the Holiday Inn, which is one of eight Felcor hotels now under the management of Wyndham Hotel Group, to plan for an entrance on Main Street.
The property is one of seven designated by city planners as a so-called opportunity site, meaning development could be taller and denser than what's allowed under the city's zoning codes, if the project incorporates "extraordinary community benefits" in exchange, such as public parking lots, pedestrian pathways and parks.
The renovation isn't necessary, Corcoran admitted when prompted by commissioner Richard McKinnon, who said the hotel "produces a powerful cash flow" for Felcor. "It does make money, so we don't have to do it," Corcoran said.
When asked about the need to build to 195 feet, Corcoran responded, it's "a desire, not a need." But he added, "It's a great piece of real estate, if you do it right, it could enhance the overall appeal."
People describe the 1963 building as ugly—part of it faces the ocean but doesn't have any windows, he added.
"People are expressing a lot of concern about the height issues. At what point does it become too hard to do a redevelopment for you?" McKinnon asked.
Corcoran said he didn't know, but did acknowledge the opposition the project is likely to face from neighborhood groups, saying it would be much easier to build in Kansas or Texas.
"I still believe in the project a lot," Corcoran said. "I appreciate the fact people do care what's built in Santa Monica—that's part of the charm."