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Work Starts on Four Seasons Hotel : Rejected in Beverly Hills, Hostelry Is Being Built in L. A.

February 09, 1986|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills' loss is Los Angeles' gain when it comes to the Four Seasons Hotel.

The Toronto-based company tried unsuccessfully for at least four years to open a luxury hotel in Beverly Hills. It spent more than $60,000 alone in support of a referendum that would have allowed its construction on the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, across the street from the Beverly Wilshire. (See related story in the Hot Property column, Page 16.)

The hotel would have been no taller than the Beverly Wilshire, but it would have exceeded a height limitation imposed after the existing hotel was built. The referendum was defeated in November, 1984, with the help of about $60,000 from owners of the Beverly Wilshire.

Construction Started

Now, with new developers, a new architect and a new site, the $80-million, 348-room hotel is finally being built, a glance away from Beverly Hills, not far from the famous and elegant 116-room L'Hermitage Hotel, but miles away from the problems that prohibited its development in Beverly Hills.

"We've only been working on the site (on the northeast corner of Doheny Drive and Burton Way) for about a year," Isadore Sharp, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the hotel firm, said at a lavish party at nearby Chasen's to celebrate the start of construction.

"We've had the site for seven years," Robert Cohen, one of the developers, said, "and we had the opportunity to get almost any hotel in the world, but we chose the best." He was visibly delighted, saying at the unveiling of the model, "This is the unveiling of our dream come true. We feel proud to contribute a world-class hotel to Los Angeles, a world-class city."

Cohen is developing the 350,000-square-foot hotel with his brother, Joseph, son, Ernest, and daughter, Michelle Lerman.

Residential Appearance

"Long ago, there was a market and drug and liquor stores on the property," he said.

Designed by Gin Wong Associates of Beverly Hills, the hotel will be 15 stories high. "But we worked very hard to keep it residential in motif," Cohen said.

It will have subterranean parking for nearly 600 cars, a restaurant, ballroom, presidential suite, governor's suite, fitness facilities with a terrace swimming pool, and French doors that will open onto rounded balconies overlooking what Cohen called "$2 million in gardens."

"My brother and I were born in the flower business," the one-time florist added, "so flowers are important to us." Lifescapes, an Orange County landscape design firm, is creating the gardens. Intradesign of Los Angeles is developing the interior design, and HuntCor Inc. of Phoenix is the general contractor.

Newport Beach Hotel

Completion is scheduled about a year from now, a couple of months before Four Seasons opens a hotel in Austin, Tex. The firm is also planning to open the Las Colinas Inn and Conference Center and Four Seasons Fitness Resort and Spa in Dallas in April.

More imminent, though, is the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, which Klaus D. Tenter, who was also at the Chasen's party, will manage. That opening is scheduled in May.

Four Seasons already operates 18 hotels. They include the Pierre in New York, Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, Inn on the Park hotels in London, Houston and Toronto, and Four Seasons hotels in Toronto and four other Canadian cities--Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver--Boston, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Antonio, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia. Of all the hotels, completed and under construction, only four were not new when Four Seasons took them over.

Sharp was only 28 when he founded the company, which is known for having such services as two telephone lines, a desk and a bathrobe in every room.

"We were the first to put shampoo in the baths," he noted. That was 20 years ago.

Preventive Maintenance

He doesn't view the services as "luxuriousness" or "an indulgence of glamour," but simply as a way to "satisfy today's life style in which time is of the essence." Essentially, he sees his customers as "business travelers."

"It's no use telling a client that we'll fix his phone tomorrow, because he won't be with us tomorrow," he said, adding that he is a strong believer in preventive maintenance. (He has already named Charles J. Ferraro general manager of the Los Angeles hotel to be on site to coordinate its opening!)

Sharp's approach to business probably stems from his background. "I came from the construction business," he said. "Initially, we were always the developer/builder." He was an architect, building small houses, and then in 1961, he built his first hotel in Toronto and discovered that he liked hotels best.

His are what he describes as "medium-sized" with 200 to 350 rooms--a good size, he claims, for keeping quality control. His rates are what he termed "competitive, at the upper level."

Among World's Best

"We want to establish our product as the best in people's minds," he said.

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