LOS ANGELES — Geographically, the recently opened Line Hotel in this city's Koreatown lies in the middle of a triangle that represents what many of the city's visitors associate with all things L.A.
To the west, the posh beach life typified by Santa Monica luxury hotels such as Shutters and Casa del Mar. To the east, the vibrant, downtown scene catered to by what will be a quintet of Marriott International-branded hotels surrounding the L.A. Live retail and entertainment district.
And to the north, both old and new Hollywood, represented by properties like the recently redone Loews Hollywood and the popular Hollywood Roosevelt.
Conceptually, though, the roots of the Line, which takes its name from its location next to a Metro Rail station, lie more than 3,000 miles to the east. View a slideshow of the properties in this article by clicking here or on the images.
"We like the energy of the location, and we liked that it was on the Metro stop," said Andrew Zobler, founder and CEO of New York-based Sydell Group, which redeveloped the property and is managing the hotel. "Downtown L.A. probably feels a little more like New York in a sense of the high-rise buildings, but this feels very urban and authentic to me in a way that relates to other urban centers."
The 388-room Line is the largest of a newer batch of Los Angeles hotels that eschew many of the trappings traditionally associated with the city's lodging industry.
That's because they are designed to attract a younger traveler who is more inclined to skip big draws such as the beach or Disneyland in favor of exploring the culture, eateries and nightlife of Los Angeles' individual neighborhoods.
And with downtown Los Angeles gradually turning into more of a 24-hour destination as more residents moved to the area during the past decade, leisure travelers who make up the vast majority of Southern California visitors have expanded their reach far beyond the more traditional destinations, and hotel developers are responding in kind, said Bruce Baltin, Los Angeles-based senior vice president at PKF Consulting.
So instead of opening near the beach, on L.A.'s Westside or near the Los Angeles Convention Center, these properties are debuting in less-known areas such as Koreatown, Downtown L.A.'s Historic Core, Studio City and, in Hollywood's case, away from that neighborhood's eponymous boulevard.
"There was historically a line at La Cienega Boulevard, and anything east of there was not considered part of the hipper part of L.A.," said Baltin. "But downtown's broken that down, so you see hotels filling in between West L.A. and downtown."
True to their alternative nature, the hotels are not part of brands run by lodging giants such as Marriott, Hilton or Starwood. Instead, they are either fully independent or are part of uber-mini-chains like Portland, Ore.-based Ace and locally helmed Pali.
Decor-wise, this new breed of hotel avoids the well-scrubbed, muted West Coast aesthetic, instead combining the architectural authenticity evoked by their buildings' respective histories with design touches that are both offbeat and urban.
Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles
Front and center, geographically, is the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, which began making its 182 rooms available to the public on Jan. 6.
Situated in a gradually gentrified but still edgy block of South Broadway on the border of the city's Jewelry District, the Ace was redeveloped out of the original West Coast headquarters for United Artists, built in 1927, complete with a 1,600-seat theater. True to L.A. history, the structure later became the Los Angeles University Cathedral, home of controversial televangelist Gene Scott.
The hotel is unapologetically hipster. Touches include record players in every room (guests can "check out" vinyl albums at the hotel's front desk), shades-wearing doormen and a rooftop deck with a full bar and a pool whose small size is better suited to reflecting than swimming.
True to both the building's roots and Ace's music-scene bent, the original theater has been polished up (hotel representatives say the University Cathedral did well preserving the structure's ornate fixtures and murals depicting United Artists founders Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin) and was scheduled to start featuring live theater and music performances on Valentine's Day.
Finally, there's the "Jesus Saves" sign. Scott, who died in 2005, rescued the iconic neon sign and moved it to his building. Now, the sign sits above a suite's patio on the rear side of the hotel.
Meanwhile, a restoration of a far more mid-century variety is taking place at the Sportsmen's Lodge in the even more inauspicious location of Studio City in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Activity on the six-acre site along Ventura Boulevard dates to the late 19th century, when the property's pond was stocked with trout, and guests could catch fish and have it cooked on site.
By the 1940s, the property had added a restaurant and become a popular haunt for the likes of Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne.
The site's 190-room hotel was added in 1962. Today, with improvements totaling about $8 million set to be completed this spring, the property is undergoing its most extensive renovation ever, upgrading its pool area to create what the hotel calls a Palm Springs-type vibe, gutting its cafe and bringing its rooms well into the 21st century.
And while the core guest will likely continue to be families visiting nearby Universal Studios and other local attractions, the hotel is looking for the improvements to bring in a larger contingent of both corporate guests doing work at the nearby studios and a younger leisure group lured by the pool and social scene.
The Moment and Palihotel Melrose
Meanwhile, recently making their debuts southwest of the aforementioned Hollywood Boulevard hotels are the Moment and the Palihotel Melrose. The latter is the relative veteran of the new batch, having opened in February 2012.
Situated in a West Hollywood-adjacent location where the glam of Melrose Avenue meets a more modest stretch of Fairfax Avenue, it sits side by side with some of L.A.'s most talked-about new restaurants, clubs and art galleries.
Originally built in 1967 as a senior housing facility, the self-described "European neighborhood inn," complete with a dark-wood-clad exterior, has just 32 somewhat stately rooms as well as a Thai massage spa on site. The property gained further local cachet with the October 2012 opening of the Hart and the Hunter eatery on its ground floor. That well-received establishment was the outgrowth of one of L.A.'s newest culinary traditions, the pop-up restaurant.
More recently minted is the Moment, which, like the Sportsmen's Lodge, is operated by Anaheim, Calif.-based boutique hotelier Broughton Hotels.
Sitting amid a Hollywood stretch of Sunset Boulevard more associated with tattoo parlors and guitar shops than high-end restaurants or nightclubs, the 39-room property was reimagined in what had been a 1954-built motel that previously served as an Econo Lodge.
With the original Guitar Center store and its two-story-tall murals of Green Day, Alanis Morissette and Deadmau5 gazing from across the street, the property underwent a $3.7 million transformation, complete with a semi-kitschy but zippy orange-and-bamboo design motif and a rooftop bar, before opening last July.
Since then, the Moment has boasted occupancy rates in the 90% range, according to Craig Settimo, the hotel's general manager.
"That stretch of Sunset was pretty much neglected from a hospitality perspective," said Broughton Hotels Founder and CEO Larry Broughton, a former executive with San Francisco-based boutique hotelier Joie de Vivre. He said that a higher-than-expected contingency from Asia and South America has helped spur the hotel's high occupancy rates: "It's absolutely resonating."
Finally, there's the Line, which likely earns the status of being the only hotel in car-centric Los Angeles to be named in honor of public transportation.
Originally built as a Hyatt in 1964, the hotel was redeveloped out of what had most recently been the Wilshire Hotel.
Opened on Jan. 6 in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood, the Line features 12,000 square feet of meetings space and a lobby area replete with spacious, C-shaped ash-wood booths, while its north-facing rooms offer unobstructed panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills. (See related story, "Koreatown undergoes a rebirth.")
The hotel, the first of a planned Line chainlet that Sydell Group says will include a Washington, D.C., version, also celebrates its midcentury architecture with its concrete and popcorn-ceiling aesthetic. It will acquire further local cachet when Los Angeles-based chef Roy Choi opens his restaurant, Pot, on the premises.
"We're hoping the opening of the Line will be somewhat of a catalyst, like the Roosevelt was for Hollywood Boulevard," said Zobler, whose company developed the Joie de Vivre-operated Saguaro Hotels in Palm Springs and Scottsdale, Ariz., and operates New York's NoMad Hotel. "I'm kind of hoping Wilshire stays a little less touristy and a little more neighborhoody."
Such hotels represent an alternative to a more traditional lodging sector whose development activity is similarly thriving throughout Los Angeles.
Measured by room-demand growth, the Los Angeles-Long Beach market essentially kept pace with the country's largest markets last year, with revenue per available room through the first nine months of 2013 advancing 6.9% from a year earlier, according to STR.
Still, the region's average daily room rate of about $137 is about 25% more than the country's average. And despite the fact that the market has about 97,000 rooms, making it the sixth-largest in the U.S., its 78.3% occupancy rate trails only that of Oahu, New York and San Francisco-San Mateo, according to STR.
With that in mind, a number of upscale hotel developers and owners have targeted Los Angeles. Most notably, by 2016 a dual-branded Courtyard by Marriott-Residence Inn and a Renaissance will join fellow Marriott properties the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott along a downtown stretch of Olympic Boulevard that borders L.A. Live.
In Hollywood, Loews Hotels & Resorts acquired the Renaissance Hollywood in 2012 for an undisclosed price and has since invested about $26 million in improvements to the 632-room, rebranded hotel.
In 2011, the 103-room Hotel Bel-Air on L.A.'s Westside reopened after a renovation reported to have cost about $100 million.
And along a supply-constrained stretch of Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue, a developer is proposing a 22-story hotel to be designed by starchitect Frank Gehry, while Fairmont Miramar owner and computer magnate Michael Dell has proposed adding a 21-story hotel tower to that property.
Still, despite increased competition, higher demand and boutique-hotel cachet have ensured that these newer hotels are holding their own when it comes to room rates. The Sportsmen's Lodge's quieter locale and continued renovations have kept its rates the cheapest of the bunch, with late February weekend rates starting in the $150 range.
Closer into town, things ramp up, however, as Palihotel rates for the same weekend start at $180 a night, while the Line's cheapest rooms are about $200. Meanwhile, the Ace's rooms start at about $225, while the Moment, with its limited supply, charges $270 and up.
All of which goes to prove that no matter how "un-L.A." such newer hotels might be, there's no getting around the willingness of the city's visitors to both spend and act a little bit like rock stars.
"Lots of guests like to head up to Runyon Canyon for a morning run," said the Moment's Settimo, referring to the hillside Hollywood hiking paths five blocks away that are frequented by celebs and local everyday folk alike. "Of course, mornings here start around noon."
Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.