Few know Los Angeles and its hotel market better than Bruce Baltin, a true stalwart of the hospitality industry.
He has worked on most of the major hotels in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), and taught hotel development at the University of Southern California for 20 years.
Baltin is a Managing Director in the Los Angeles office of CBRE Hotels, a part of the CBRE Group, which is the world’s largest real estate services firm, providing feasibility studies, development consulting and asset advisory services.
On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles, Baltin spoke to TOPHOTELNEWS on how the city of angels has experienced a complete turnaround in its hospitality industry in a few short decades.
How downtown LA went from “dead market” to boomtime
Baltin: I’ve been officing in downtown Los Angeles since 1970 and have been a passionate believer in the resurgence of downtown Los Angeles, or its potential resurgence. It was really a dead market for decades and was a very weak sub-market with not much happening in downtown. People worked here: they drove into work and left; or they drove into an event and left. There was no activity downtown.
In 1999, the city of Los Angeles passed an adaptive reuse ordinance that allowed the conversion of the upper floors of outdated office buildings into residential which was a huge factor in the resurgence of downtown. It has since gone from a population of less than 10,000 to currently around 60,000 and that has driven a whole lot of redevelopment of existing neighborhoods. There are seven neighborhoods in downtown and that’s driven the whole redevelopment of a number of neighborhoods. And, as a consequence, we’ve got more hotel development downtown.
I’ve worked for years on the development with JW Marriott and L.A. Live; and I’d say the adaptive reuse ordinance and development of L.A. Live were the two factors in redeveloping downtown.
Big hotel brands all clamoring to get to DTLA
Baltin: They’re trying to get here, they all want to be here. Hilton is looking for projects, Hyatt is looking for projects, Accor is looking for projects downtown. IHG obviously has this hotel (Hotel Indigo LA Downtown) and the InterContinental Hotel, so they may be looking for some other newer brands like Even Hotels.
LA’s mix of authenticity and awesome new developments
Baltin: When I teach my class hotel development, I tell them that the important thing to find the kernel of authenticity and develop your hotels and destination in that vein. That’s exactly what’s happened to Hollywood. Hollywood was a kind of tour and travel destination: it was pretty weak. It has had a total resurgence and a huge redevelopment of Hollywood that has helped to create “Silicon Beach” which is the redevelopment of West L.A.
Creativity in development is essential, as is good operations, good management and good service. The Southern California markets are very very strong and so we continue to see more development in Southern California. Things are being done like the football stadium, Lucasfilm Museum, the redevelopment of the airport, extension of our transit system.
Frankly, that was one of the biggest weaknesses of L.A., was getting around. For an international visitor, they don’t like to drive. We have a huge number of international tourists and now they ride the Metro Rail all over the city.
Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR
Baltin: I enjoyed it immensely, I’ve met a lot of people, the networking was great. I actually met a lot of people who I worked on projects with or formerly worked on projects with but didn’t really know them. The presentations were great.
Bruce Baltin was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR Los Angeles 2019. To attend, address or sponsor our boutique hospitality networking events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.