Hey, Fremont East, How About a Boutique Motel?

Farmers Story

This past weekend I was in Los Angeles, enjoying a spate of cultural offerings that included—but was in no way limited to—Umami Burger, LACMA and a real live Werner Herzog sighting. My girlfriend and I connected with friends old and new, had killer ice cream at Quenelle, bought a carload of Swedish tomfoolery at IKEA, and generally marveled at Los Angeles’s reemerging downtown area, which the locals call DTLA. How about that.

Our base of operations for this densely packed weekend was the Farmer’s Daughter, a boutique hotel located across the street from CBS Television City. (Many of the Daughter’s guests choose the hotel for this reason; Television City is where “The Price is Right” is filmed.) It was my first time at the Daughter, and it won’t be my last, because I can’t say enough good things about the place. The location—steps away from the Original Farmer’s Market—is terrific. The rooms, appointed in down-home kitsch, are airy and handsome. Their quality of service is outstanding, from the breakfast served at their restaurant Tart to the freshly-made chocolate chip cookies and sweet tea served at the registration desk.

I could devote several more sentences to the details that helped me to fall for the Farmer’s Daughter, but there’s one that stands above the rest: her bones. This boutique hotel is built on the skeleton of an old Best Western motel. But where some might have ripped down the old to put up the new, the owners of Farmer’s Daughter built within the limitations of a property that wasn’t built to be upscale, wasn’t built to have wood floors in the rooms and C. O. Bigelow Apothecaries on the bathroom sink. And in working within those strictures, they created something so unique that the New York Times gave it a friendly nod.

This isn’t like converting the Sahara to the SLS; this is riskier, crazier. And something like it should happen on Fremont Street, or on the Strip between Sahara and Charleston. Someone should take one of our dead or dying motels and make something lively and unique from it.

Look, I’m not one to tell millionaires how to spend their money. But there’s an opportunity here, and its window is finite: Something tells me that the Downtown Project have no such plans for any of the old Fremont motels they now own, and once the SLS opens its doors, the Downtown Strip is going to change fast. There are only so many places where something like a Farmer’s Daughter could settle in. And these places aren’t getting any younger, or shedding the codes that make rebuilding more expensive than simply building new. This idea is only going to become less feasible the longer we wait.

By the way, I’ve got my spot picked out: The Gables, at 1301 Fremont. I love the property as it is—the storybook-style facades, the Googie sign—and I think with some architectural polish and a punched-up brand identity, it could be something great. If someone were to buy the property now and spend a couple of years developing it, the Fremont East corridor could just reach its doors before they open. It’s not inconceivable that someone might want to come stay at the Gables someday, if its look is agreeable to the eye, its staff friendly and accommodating, and its price is right.


  • Andrea Lipomi

    And cookies!

    My NY family would love to stay at a place like this when they visit. What price range do you think is reasonable for rooms like these in our ‘hood?

  • JPR

    I wanted to do this years ago, but didn’t have the requisite resources to pull it off. It’s too bad the original two-story motel that the Gold Spike annexed wasn’t purposed for this. I’d say the El Cortez Cabana Suites approach the intent, though cannot quite excel at the feel without an on-site lobby and lounge/living room area. Check out the Whitney Peak in Reno — closer to SLS in scale but pretty neato anyway.

  • I too have thought that turning some of these abandoned motels into some sort of boutique motels would be a good idea. I would love to see something like this come to fruition on Fremont East.

  • Having spent the better part of the past 3-4 years splitting my professional and personal lives between #DTLA and #DTLV as well as being very active and in the know about what’s happening in both I don’t know where you are drawing the basis of your conclusions. Unless you’ve got a secret Bat phone hooked up to The Ogden or have the men’s room at the Gold Spike bugged there’s no possible basis for you to assert:

    “Look, I’m not one to tell millionaires how to spend their money. But there’s an opportunity here, and its window is finite: Something tells me that the Downtown Project have no such plans for any of the old Fremont motels they now own, and once the SLS opens its doors, the Downtown Strip is going to change fast.”

    First of all some of those now vacant and fenced gems appear to me (yes, I am a real estate appraiser and expert witness) appear to me to either be too physically deteriorated, too functionally obsolete or located on frontage property that the highest and best use of would be something other than as a boutique hotel.

    Secondly, the simple fact that it’s not uncommon to find tons of nearby hotel rooms during the week discounted down to under $20 per night what I’d estimate to be at 50% or less occupancy rate tends to exhibit that there isn’t a market to support what you propose.

    Thirdly, if you expand the market area a bit one can find alternative boutique hotel properties to fill that market demand quite nicely such as The Artisan and Rumor Boutique Hotel.

  • 777s

    I think the senseless converter of land uses, not your friend or mine the Downtown Project, has ALREADY swallowed up The Gables. It is sitting sadly fenced with neighboring old roadside motels. DTP will not keep any of them awesome, retro, funky, vintage boutique motels. Rather, they will try to convert them to stripped to the shell retail centers with “an eclectic mix of shops surrounding an open air courtyard”.

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