Updated Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 03:20 PM
A luxury hotel will fill the bottom third of a 660-foot downtown Seattle office tower scheduled to break ground this fall — and it will be operated by a company that cut its teeth running some of Los Angeles’ hottest nightclubs and restaurants.
Entertainment and hospitality company SBE has agreed to open a 184-room hotel in the Fifth and Columbia Tower, the company and the tower’s developers said this week.
SBE’s chief executive, Sam Nazarian, has been labeled L.A.’s “King of the Night” by the Los Angeles Times. His clubs are known as hangouts for Hollywood celebrities.
The company’s hip SLS Hotels brand, which will take 14 floors in the planned 43-story tower, runs hotels in Beverly Hills and Miami’s South Beach. And it plans to open two more, in New York and Las Vegas, over the next two years.
There’s probably more Gore-Tex and fleece in Seattle than in those four cities combined. But Arash Azarbarzin, president of SBE’s hotel division, said the company doesn’t try to impose the same formula on each city.
The Beverly Hills SLS is more chic, he said, the Miami hotel more resort-like. The Seattle one will be tailored to this market, he added.
Kevin Daniels of Daniels Real Estate, one of Fifth and Columbia’s developers, said he picked SBE over other prospective hotel operators to give Seattle something it lacks.
“There’s not a lot of glamour or excitement around the hotel properties here like you find in other gateway cities,” he said.
Nazarian, who has appeared in TV reality shows and is something of a celebrity in L.A. himself, said in a statement that “we’ve had our eye on Seattle for years.”
His company, founded in 2002, was originally called Sammy Boy Entertainment.
The hotel will have 30,000 square feet of restaurants and clubs and more than 20,000 square feet of conference and event space. It will be designed by Philippe Starck, a world-famous French product designer.
SLS hotels are luxury properties that provide quality service “without having it be rehearsed, or having it be too formal,” said Azarbarzin, who spent 2½ years in the 1990s as catering director at the old Four Seasons Olympic.
The Seattle SLS will have a least two restaurants and a bar, he said.
SLS Hotels’ culinary director is José Andrés, a James Beard Award-winning chef who has been called “the face of Spanish food in America.” The SLS hotels in Beverly Hills and Miami house two of his restaurants.
But Azarbarzin said it’s too soon to say whether Seattle will house another: “We’ll come up with a concept that’s appropriate for the market,” he said.
John Gordon, a senior vice president who tracks the Seattle hotel market for brokerage Kidder Mathews, said he isn’t familiar with SBE or SLS.
But other Seattle hotels have succeeded in mixed-used buildings, he said.
The asymmetrical, angular Fifth and Columbia Tower had been on hold for nearly five years until Daniels and its equity partner, Stockbridge Capital Group of San Francisco, announced last month they would start construction this October.
The partnership with SBE was “a pretty big reason why we decided to move ahead,” Daniels said. SBE does not have an ownership interest in the $400 million building, he added.
The tower is to be completed in 2016.
Fifth and Columbia is a great location for a hotel, Daniels maintains: “It’s the densest corner on the West Coast.”
The other corners of the intersection are occupied by three skyscrapers: 76-story Columbia Center, the 62-story Seattle Municipal Tower, and 42-story Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza.
The nearest hotels, the Renaissance Madison on Sixth Avenue and the Doubletree in the historic Arctic Club building, are two or three blocks away.
Stockbridge has worked with Nazarian’s SBE before: Together they own the old Sahara Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, and are redeveloping it as the SLS Las Vegas.
Daniels said he’s negotiating with five prospective office tenants — two of them “very large” — for Fifth and Columbia’s 524,000 square feet of office space.
He also said he’s still working on construction financing, and one possibility is the federal EB-5 program, which offers green cards of permanent residency to foreigners who invest in job-creating U.S. projects.
Hotel developers are returning to Seattle after a hiatus of several years as occupancy increases and rates rise.
A 23-story Hilton Embassy Suites near CenturyLink Field and an 8-story Hyatt near Seattle Center are to break ground this year.
Developers also are seeking permits for a 14-story hotel in the Denny Triangle, a 15-story hotel in South Lake Union and an 18-story hotel at Fifth Avenue and Stewart Street.
Eric Pryne: firstname.lastname@example.org
A rendering shows the planned 43-story Fifth and Columbia Tower. A 184-room luxury hotel that includes restaurants and clubs will fill the bottom third of the building.