Since opening in the 1920s, the Cecil Hotel has harbored a dark reputation with many robberies, assaults, murders, and suicides in its checkered history. In fact, it was home for serial killers such as Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. Netflix’s upcoming docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel unpacks the 2013 disappearance of Elisa Lam, contextualizing the historic building’s haunting background that increased interest in the case. Given its notoriety, is the Cecil still open? While the Cecil officially closed its doors in 2017, it’s currently being renovated for future guests and residents.
Interviewing former manager Amy Price, Crime Scene dives deep into the significant effort to repair the Cecil’s reputation in 2011. The hotel’s management decided to restructure the building and rebrand certain parts of it as a trendy hostel hotel called Stay on Main. Floors two and three were for tenants, four through six were for Stay on Main guests, and everything upward was the Cecil Hotel. Stay on Main had a separate entrance from the Cecil, but it was in the same building and shared common elevators. Traveling through California, Lam checked into Stay on Main on the fifth floor. Weeks after she stepped her foot inside of it, a hotel worker discovered her dead in the rooftop water tank.
Known for running expensive boutique hotels such as the Bowery and the Ludlow, New York real estate developer Richard Born bought the hotel in 2014 for $30 million. Born envisioned it as a spot for “reasonably priced residences catering to young professionals.” But in 2016, Simon Baron Development locked down a 99-year ground lease on the building, intending to reposition it into a state-of-the-art mixed-use facility that combined a boutique hotel with micro-apartments. In 2016, it was estimated that the renovation project would cost Simon Baron Development approximately $100 million.
The hotel officially closed its doors in 2017, the same year that it became a Los Angeles landmark. According to Curbed LA, the developer proposed to rehab 261 existing residential units and build 30 replacement units at a nearby property. Simon Baron Development also partnered up with Skid Row Housing Trust to develop and manage single-room occupancy units as affordable housing. In 2019, it was in the process of securing finances and permits for the renovation project, working with Los Angeles architecture firm Omgivning to put together the building’s design. The projected finish date for the renovation is late 2021.
Image Source: Getty / Robyn Beck