For four years I lived in a little house tucked into a hill in Hollywood, and every morning as I brushed my teeth, I checked the progress of the cranes hoisting the massive W Hollywood Hotel & Residences into reality. Marty Collins has been watching it a little longer than that. For the past 12 years his Dallas–based development company, Gatehouse Capital, has been deeply invested in bringing the largest sustainable, mixed-use development in the city (maybe the state) to what's possibly the world's most famous—and, says Collins, the most misunderstood—neighborhood.
"Twenty-one million people show up here and ask, 'where's Hollywood?'" Collins says. It's a fair question, considering that "Hollywood", one of the most well-known brands in the world, has no physical anchor, no tangible base within which to tout its glamorous roots. The W, he says, will be a "catalyzing" factor for the historic neighborhood, and will embrace its entertainment past. "This is the 800-pound gorilla," says Collins. And a gorilla it is. The 143 Residences and the 305-room W Hollywood Hotel hug the 1923 Taft Building, and includes 60,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, numerous bars and clubs and the outdoor W Ciné, with its huge screen for events and red-carpet receptions. The project also boasts the hooray-for-Hollywood claim of LA's largest signage entitlement—about 30,000 square feet when combined with Legacy Partners' development within the same city block. "This isn't Hollywood the movie. This isn't Hollywood the ride," Collins says triumphantly. "This is the real Hollywood."
Along with bringing the Hollywood back to Hollywood, Collins was focused on making it the most sustainable project for its size. As the largest developer of W Hotels, as well as other Starwood properties, Collins assembled a winning green team: exterior architects HKS, hotel interior architects Architropolis, residential interior architects Daly Genik and landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale. On a hard-hat tour of property, which is scheduled to open this fall, Collins bounds through the worksite with his signature exuberance, pointing out details like energy-efficient windows shaded by overhangs and a white "cool-roof" for the pool that's meant to deflect heat (I even spied a biodiesel-fueled generator). There's artist Pae White's "hanging garden," an interactive installation by Christian Moeller, and woolly lobby accessories by Claudy Jongstra. Plus, each unit has what you might call sustainably-chic appointments: Poliform kitchens and closets, Kuppersbusch inductive heating ranges, and Sub-Zero refrigerators.
A unique partnership with LA transit authority Metro, whose Red Line subway to downtown LA has a station tucked within the W's courtyard, also brings public transportation possibilities front and center to the project. The development is nestled in what is already a highly walkable neighborhood (there are 16,000 parking spaces, says Collins, but they're expensive). Critics say the density features are just feel-good measures for developers and city planners, and residents will still climb in their cars—a claim Collins dismisses. "It's not our job to change people," says Collins. "But I think this will mark one of the early times in which people will pay a lot for housing and really use public transportation."
From the 14th floor, where units are delivered as a raw shell for ultimate customization, residents get jaw-dropping views of the stacked-disc Capitol Records building and a full-frontal panorama of the Hollywood sign (and while we were up there, we also got a 4.0 earthquake). But Collins' own unit is as low to the ground as you can get—it's a third-floor, 2,000-square-foot, two-bedroom unit with a terrace that practically sits on the Pantages' marquee. He stands there, surveying his personal slice of Hollywood Boulevard. "Those units are really, really nice," he says, nodding upstairs. "But I want to be part of that"—he gestures towards the storied intersection of Hollywood and Vine—"and part of that"—a sweep of the hand towards the hot pink Dirty Dancing signage plastering the Pantages—"and part of that!"—he points straight down to the Metro station, which he can reach via his own private "staircase to Hollywood" that drops him onto the plaza. Even Collins has adjusted his own car-focused mentality. When he needs to get downtown—which, for a developer, is a lot—he always takes the train.
Learn more about high-density living at Vertical Los Angeles, a panel discussion moderated by Dwell editor Sarah Rich at the W Hollywood Residences, and don't miss the new density panel at Dwell on Design, which is taking place June 26-28 in downtown Los Angeles. Register at dwellondesign.com.