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Bonaventure Hotel to 'About Face' : Renovation to Include Main Entrance on Flower Street

September 08, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

Plans for a new "pedestrian friendly" Flower Street entrance to the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, will be announced officially Wednesday as the cornerstone of a $5-million renovation of the hotel landmark.

The decision to create the primary entrance of the hotel on Flower Street represents an "about face" in terms of both the operating realities of the hotel and the attitudes of the Community Redevelopment Agency, according to Stanley P. Steinberg, general partner for the Los Angeles Bonaventure Co. which owns the Bonaventure .

Construction is scheduled to begin this month.

In addition to the new Flower Street grand entry flanked by newly created canopied retail shops and a bar, the renovation includes the creation of the Market on Fourth, an 18,000-square-foot promenade devoted to more than a dozen moderately-priced restaurants, with areas for atrium or alfresco dining. The refurbishment of the California Ballroom, Top of Five restaurant and BonaVista Lounge already have been completed as part of the plan.

Asked whether major renovation and construction involving the downtown Hilton, the Biltmore and the Hyatt Regency had influenced the turnaround decision, Steinberg said: "The changes are not a reflection of what others are doing, nor a lack of foresight on the part of urban planners or the hotel architect, John Portman & Associates, who also designed the new changes. The changes were dictated by the users themselves.

"Our willingness to invest in excess of $5 million to bring about these changes, also reflects our confidence in the Bonaventure property.

"Before we bought the property, in the early 1970s there was only Arco, the Union Bank, Bunker Hill Towers, and the World Trade Center had only just been completed. There was nothing going on in the streets." The hotel complex opened in December, 1976.

Steinberg explained that when the hotel was built, the tenor of the times determined the hotel design. "The CRA agreement with us dictated certain things," Steinberg said. "What it perceived was a series of bridges and elevated pedestrians walks and plazas. Since, then everyone's views have changed, and the users have dictated what was to evolve."

He noted that when Dwight D. Eisenhower became president of Columbia University, it was suggested to him that the big quadrangle in the center of the university be eliminated because it was an eyesore with its trampled paths, resulting from the shortcuts taken by students over the years. "Eisenhower's solution was to give in to a natural traffic pattern. He ordered the shoddy paths paved, he said.

"This analogy applies to what is now being done to the Bonaventure: an 'about face'. We feel the change will be a contribution to the street." He added that the building is uniquely positioned to allow for the back door to be changed to the front door.

"Pedestrians have the habit of coming in by Flower Street, which has always been the hotel's back door," Steinberg said. "Taxis also like to work from it, and people who use public transportation enter the hotel that way. Flower Street has become very much alive and also has the advantage of being located on the same level as our main check-in area. From Figueroa, that area is one level down.

"We expect the accompanying retail space that will be created on the ground level will help make the Flower Street corridor more open and inviting to the public. During the nine years that the hotel has been operating, the CRA's direction has been changing as evidenced by the permission granted the developers of the Wells Fargo Building, across the street from the Westin Bonaventure, to create a street-level pedestrian plaza at the intersection of 5th and Flower streets.

"We think downtown is one of the more exciting opportunities in the country today. L. A. has never had a center; now it has become what it should be and is rising in importance. We are flattered when TV movies show aerial views of Los Angeles they always seem to take in the unique design of the Bonaventure."

Architect for the new Flower Street entrance is John Portman & Associates, general contractor is Dinwiddie Construction Co., the Shimazu Partnership is the architect for the Market on Fourth and Holwick Constructors is the general contractor. The Bonaventure's Top of Five restaurant and revolving BonaVista Lounge have been totally redecorated in a designs by Hirsch Bedner.

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