In 2016, developers announced a major renovation planned for the historic and creepy Hotel Cecil, but the Downtown LA hotel has been gathering dust since then.
That might change within a few months. City records reveal that developer Simon Baron Development plans to secure financing for the project by the end of the year, with construction beginning shortly after. Work is expected to be complete by October 2021.
A memo to the CRA/LA, the successor agency to the city’s redevelopment agency, from its Chief Executive Officer, Steve Valenzuela, states that the plan for the hotel involves the required replacement of hundreds of single-room occupancy units as part of the extensive rehabilitation project. (Urbanize LA was the first to spot the memo.)
The Cecil, also known as The Stay on Main, sits just off Seventh and Main streets. Built in 1924, it holds 299 hotel rooms and 301 single-room occupancy residences.
The developer is proposing to rehab 261 of the existing residential units and building 30 new replacement units at a nearby property it is already leasing. (Those 30 replacement units are required to be built and open no later than July 2028.)
The city had previously approved a reduction in the total residential units from 301 to 291 in order to allow for 10 managers units for the SRO section of the project, but the CRA/LA has to approve this move too.
The SRO residences would be operated by Skid Row Housing Trust and available to tenants making between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, though the majority—141 units—would be for those making 30 percent of the area median income or less. An affordability covenant on the property would keep the units affordable for 55 years.
Of all the SRO units, only nine are occupied now. Those tenants will be allowed to stay until construction begins, at which point they will be relocated for the duration of construction and allowed to return once the work is complete, the memo says.
Representatives for Simon Baron Development would not comment on specifics of the project, but did confirm they are in the process of securing a number of permits from the building and safety department.
The Cecil sold in 2014 to New York real estate developer Richard Born, who owns a vast portfolio of boutique hotels in New York, including the Bowery, the Maritime, the Ludlow, and the Greenwich.
In 2015, Simon Baron Development entered a 99-year ground lease with the property owner (officially, 248 Haynes Hotel Associates, LLC) to renovate and operate the residential and hotel components of the Cecil.
The 2016 renovation plans included incorporating hotel and micro-living units. Representatives for Simon Baron Development would not say if trendy coliving and micro-units were still part of the plan.
The developer’s plan for replacing the SRO units needs approval from the CRA/LA’s governing board in order for the project to receive the permits it needs from the city’s department of building and safety. The memo recommends that the board approve the plan and the 55-year affordability covenants.
The Cecil opened just a few years before the Great Depression. The hotel was intended as lodging for business people, but with the economic collapse, the Cecil’s clientele drifted toward the less affluent.
In the 1980s, serial killer Richard Ramirez, also known as the Nightstalker, reportedly lived at the Cecil, when rooms were as low as $14 a night, according to Los Angeles Times archives.
The Cecil was rebranded as The Stay on Main in 2011, but its eerie reputation grew after a tragic and mysterious incident in 2013 where a guest was later found dead in a rooftop water cistern. The death, ruled an accident, was inspiration for a season of American Horror Story. The city landmarked the building, scary reputation and all, in 2017.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the year the Cecil opened. It was 1924, not 1934.