Hillcrest wants public money for Hilton project at Universal Studios

Firm seeks unspecified sum to build 395-room expansion tower in Studio City

Hillcrest Wants Public Money for Universal Studios Hotel
Sun Hill Properties' Mark Davis with rendering of 555 East Universal Hollywood (Sun Hill Properties, Ankrom Moisan, Getty)

Hillcrest Real Estate wants a government handout to help pay for an 18-story addition to the Hilton Universal City hotel next to Universal Studios Hollywood.

The firm, based at the same Studio City office as Sun Hill Properties, both led by Mark Davis, has asked the City of Los Angeles for financial help to build the 395-room tower at 555 East Universal Hollywood, in Studio City, Urbanize Los Angeles reported.

The request was mentioned in a motion by L.A. City Councilwoman Nithya Raman to direct the Chief Legislative Analyst to hire consultants to conduct an economic feasibility study for the expansion project, using $150,000 provided by the developer. 

The item has been referred to the Council’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee for consideration.

“The developer has indicated that the proposed project requires financial assistance to construct and has requested that the city help with economic incentives such as those that have been provided to other large hotel projects in Los Angeles,” the motion reads.

It’s not clear now much money or tax assistance Hillcrest wants from L.A. taxpayers, or whether Hillcrest has been able to obtain project financing. The cost of the hotel expansion was not disclosed.

The 24-story, 495-room Hilton Universal City, built in 1983, sits between the 101 Freeway and the Universal Studios theme park. It contains meeting rooms and underground parking for 652 cars.

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Plans by Sun Hill, owner of the Hilton, now call for an 18-story tower next door, with 395 rooms. If completed, the expanded Hilton Universal City would contain 890 rooms. 

The expansion project, designed by Ankrom Moisan and in the works since 2017, would retain the diamond-shaped footprint of the original Hilton, including a rooftop pool. A parking garage would serve 460 cars.

Originally announced as a 15-story tower, a 2018 redesign pushed the height of the tower to 17 stories, according to Urbanize. In November, Sun Hill revised its plan to 18 stories.

If approved, the new Hilton tower would take 30 months to complete.

Hillcrest is not the first hotel developer to seek help from the city, according to Urbanize.

Backers of a proposed mixed-use complex next to the Los Angeles River in the Arts District  recently sought financial assistance for a hotel there. Past agreements have involved a partial rebate of transient occupancy tax revenue that would normally be paid to the city.

— Dana Bartholomew

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