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.
PHOTO BY GEOFF CARTER