Owners of Studio City’s 1960s-era Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel plan to replace it with housing
The owners of Sportsmen’s Lodge plan to raze the 1960s-vintage hotel on Ventura Boulevard and replace it with apartments as part of an ongoing makeover of the site long known as a cultural center of the San Fernando Valley.
The Sportsmen’s Lodge complex in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles became popular in the 1930s as a trout fishing attraction. It became a celebrity hangout and then a cherished institution where couples got married and families shared big occasions such as bar mitzvahs.
The banquet center where those events were held was recently removed to make way for a $100-million retail center with stores and restaurants called the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge. It is set to open in September.
Midwood Investment & Development will next seek city permission to knock down the 190-room hotel and erect the Residences at Sportsmen’s Lodge, which would have 520 apartments, including 78 units of subsidized affordable housing.
The hotel opened in 1962 and has been renovated multiple times but struggled in recent years before being shuttered by the pandemic, said John Usdan, chief executive of Midwood. Its primary source of customers was the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, which closed for 13 months to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reopened in April.
“When you are dependent on a single driver of business, it is a high-risk enterprise,” Usdan said of the hotel. The hotel has been closed to visitors since the dawn of the pandemic but was occupied for nearly 12 months by Project Roomkey, a publicly funded program that rents hotel and motel rooms to shelter homeless people who are at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.
Midwood may reopen Sportsmen’s Lodge during the city’s approval process for the proposed apartment development, which could take about two years.
The apartments, which would range from studios to two-bedroom units, would be in greater demand than a hotel in the years ahead, Usdan said. Tenants may include young professionals, people who have short-duration jobs at nearby movie studios, and empty nesters ready to move out of their homes but who want to stay in the area.
Los Angeles architecture firm Marmol Radziner’s design for the residences embraces Midcentury Modern style, Managing Partner Leo Marmol said. The three-building complex would range from three stories to seven stories. Parking for 1,385 cars would be underground.
The Residences at Sportsmen’s Lodge would include ground-floor stores and restaurants intended to meld with the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge.
The shops nearing completion are 90% leased, Usdan said, with an Erewhon market serving as the anchor. Other tenants will include sushi restaurant Sugarfish and online retailers expanding to physical stores Madison Reed hair care and Amazon 4-Star.
The 5.8-acre residential site would maintain a significant amount of open space accessible to the public for dining, shopping and recreation, Usdan said. The project’s proposed design would create a new pedestrian path from Ventura Boulevard through the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge to a new community plaza at the Los Angeles River.
The path to redevelopment at Sportsmen’s Lodge hasn’t been smooth. Some neighbors had argued that the retail complex would increase noise and traffic and remove a bit of Studio City’s rustic charm.
In an effort to garner support for the project. Ben Besley, senior vice president of development for Midwood, said he will meet with nearby residents and stakeholders to describe Midwood’s plans and take in their reactions. The entire development covering nearly nine acres and including the shopping center would be valued at $500 million, he said.
The location of Sportsmen’s Lodge has a long history as a destination for recreation, dating to at least the 1880s as a fishing spot. In 1913, it went commercial with the founding of Hollywood Trout Farms, which featured ponds and a bait-and-tackle shop. In 1946, the first dining room and kitchen were added and it reopened as Sportsmen’s Lodge.
The rustic dining hall became a movie studio hangout at a time when sheep grazed hillsides later claimed by Universal Studios.
Surrounded by orange groves, the Ventura Boulevard restaurant quickly became a hot spot, a place where patrons could hook their dinner and have it fried fresh in the kitchen. In the 1960s, the new meeting facilities made it a social center for Studio City.