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Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel unveils totally new look for its big renovation, expansion

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The 21-story tower is gone

The made-over Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Ocean Avenue, with the landmark Moreton Bay Fig tree in front.
Renderings courtesy of Ocean Avenue LLC

The owners of Santa Monica’s historic Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows on Ocean Avenue unveiled overnight new plans for a major renovation and expansion. The plans have scaled back dramatically from earlier iterations—they no longer call for a 21-story tower.

Instead, the height will be more evenly distributed, maxing out at 130 feet. The new design is helmed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, and its vision is much more sleek and contemporary.

The project is one of the biggest and most prominent in Santa Monica’s development pipeline. It will include 312 remodeled guest rooms, the addition of as many as 60 market-rate condos, underground parking for 475 cars, and gardens and pathways that would be open to the public.

A separate affordable apartment complex with at least 30 units would be built behind the Miramar on Second Street, right next-door to a competing hotel, the Huntley. (The two hoteliers have been locked in a public fight for years over the Miramar’s proposed expansion.)

About half of the site will be dedicated to “food and beverage” outlets accessible to the public on the ground-floor. Plans also call for a 14,000-square-foot garden at the corner of Wilshire and Ocean.

Previous plans called for a 21-story tower.

“We have designed the new Miramar with the goal of embracing the local community,” father and son said Cesar and Rafael Pelli in a joint statement. “While the new buildings are magnificent, and reflect the energy and ethos of Santa Monica, the human experiences at the pedestrian level are equally extraordinary and make a meaningful contribution to the urban fabric of downtown Santa Monica.”

The design team also includes landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and historic preservation consultant Robert Chattel of Chattel Inc.

“When the Miramar Hotel originally opened in 1920, guests were drawn to its breathtaking gardens and open spaces. Over time, the gardens and public space became hidden and restricted to guests, with building additions and tall walls surrounding the property. The new Miramar Santa Monica seeks to restore and enhance the garden identity to the hotel.”

In a statement, the hotel’s owner, Ocean Avenue LLC, says the trio “created a design that embraces” the property’s historic Moreton Bay Fig tree, “making it a true focal point of the project.”

The tree was designated a local landmark in 1976. It was planted at the site in the 1880s, when the Miramar was a private estate.

Gardens and pathways in front of the hotel would be open to the public.

It became a hotel in 1921 and was gradually expanded to include the six-story Palisades Wing and 32 poolside bungalows. With its prime location overlooking the ocean, it attracted the famous and elite, from Greta Garbo to Marilyn Monroe to Eleanor Roosevelt to JFK.

The sleek design is by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

The bungalows have been built and rebuilt several times over the years, and would be demolished under the new plans.

An aerial view of the made-over hotel from Second Street. The old Palisades Wing is visible immediately to the right.

The brick-clad Palisades Wing that backs up to Second Street is landmarked and will be preserved.

The Miramar site is one of three “established large sites” in downtown Santa Monica, where, under city code, buildings are allowed to heights of 130 feet—with a majority vote of the City Council.

The hotel’s owners, Ocean Avenue LLC, have been looking to remodel since at least 2011, but have faced fierce resistance from residents fighting development in Santa Monica. The project was put on hold while city leaders hashed out a new plan to guide development in downtown. That plan was adopted last year.