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Biltmore Hotel Will Get Face Lift, Office Tower

May 12, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

Colorful banners will wave atop the Biltmore Hotel and 1,000 balloons will be released as city officials wield a sledgehammer on a wall leading from the hotel to the site of the planned 24-story Biltmore Tower at the corner of 5th Street and Grand Avenue.

Monday's hoopla will signal the start of Biltmore Place, valued at about $200 million when completed, a project that entails construction of the tower as well as the refurbishment of the landmark hotel to its original 1920s grandeur.

The project, hailed as a link between Pershing Square and the planned Library Square, is a development of Biltmore Partners, headed by Westgroup Inc. of Los Angeles, in partnership with the First Boston Real Estate & Development Corp., a subsidiary of First Boston Inc.

The Biltmore, a vintage facility that has hosted royalty, world leaders, political caucuses, and formerly served as a setting for the movie industry's Academy Awards, was the largest hotel west of Chicago (with 1,000 rooms) when it was built in 1923. In 1927, it was expanded to include the Biltmore Bowl.

Listed as a historical city structure in 1969, the building was designed by the noted hotel designers of the period, Schultze & Weaver of New York, and embellished by the Italian artist and muralist, Giovanni Battista Smeraldi, who created the ornamental ceiling and wall sections in the public areas.

The hotel's 1-million square feet of space will be redesigned to include 728 hotel rooms, 276,000 square feet of office space and 28,000 square feet of retail space. The major face lift is being directed by Barnett Schorr, a Seattle architect who specializes in restorations.

"New lighting will fully showcase the beauty of the hotel's intricate craftsmanship," said Charles Lande, Westgroup's executive vice president. "The original public entry on Olive Street will be retained, and a porte-cochere will be located on Grand Avenue, serving both the hotel and the office tower."

The Biltmore's renowned restaurant, Bernard's, will be redesigned and redecorated and the Grand Avenue Bar will be relocated to become a central gathering place for the hotel. A luxurious lounge similar to the Palm Court in New York's Plaza Hotel will be added at the Olive Street entrance.

The office tower will supplant a parking lot on the northwest corner of the Biltmore site and will consist of 132,000 square feet of office space, 3,000 square feet of retail uses and 10 floors of parking.

Sloping Copper Roof

Designed by the Landau Partnership of Santa Monica, the contemporary structure's use of similar stone and brick exterior will match the design theme of the hotel's materials and color. The architect has planned a 36-foot-high sloping copper roof that rises 200 feet above the existing hotel.

While tenants in the office tower will have full access to all hotel services, including concierge, room service and meeting rooms, office and hotel uses will be served by separate elevator and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems, Lande pointed out.

Turner Construction will be the contractor of the new tower and Westgroup will handle the hotel restoration, which will be completed sequentially, one floor at a time. Completion is expected during the fourth quarter in 1986.

Four Restaurants Planned

The renovation will add four new restaurants, The Bistro, Palm Court, Grill Room and Conti Bar. Estimated completion date is next December.

Westgroup, headed by Patrick R. Colee, currently manages a portfolio valued at more than $300 million and is responsible for 10 properties with more than 3 million square feet located primarily in Dallas and in Southern California.

The firm's major restoration projects here are One Bunker Hill, a 13-story Art Deco building, formerly the headquarters of Southern California Edison, and the Pacific Mutual Building, both neighbors of the Biltmore. In Dallas, the Adolphus Hotel, built in 1912 by Adolph Busch, was purchased by Westgroup in 1981, and after a $45-million renovation, the hotel has earned the American Automobile Assn's. five-diamond rating. The Biltmore property was acquired by Westgroup last December.

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