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The Cecil Hotel, Infamous For Its Macabre History, Reopening As Affordable Housing Units

Project developers hope the transformation will help shed the historic landmark's dark reputation.

By Jax Miller
Cecil Hotel Ap

The Cecil Hotel, infamous for its dark and unsettling history, is about to be transformed into an establishment to help serve the community’s housing-challenged.

The Skid Row Housing Trust, an organization on a mission to provide permanent housing for homeless and low-income residents, will be reopening the hotel's doors as affordable housing units, according to Los Angeles Magazine. The building's notorious reputation has inspired many an adaption, including FX’s “American Horror Story: Hotel” and a Netflix documentary examining the 2013 disappearance of 21-year-old Elisa Lam.

Lam’s body was discovered in a water tower on the hotel’s roof, as told in this year’s “Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel.” While many theories have swirled around the Canadian woman’s death, especially since an elevator's security camera captured her final and bizarre moments, her death was officially ruled accidental.

A ceremony to commemorate the hotel’s renovation into 600 single-room occupancies for the underserved was planned for Tuesday.

“The Cecil Hotel is a perfect example of the bold and creative solutions needed to make a dent in the homelessness crisis,” said the trust’s chief, Sierra Atilano, according to LA Mag. “We are proud to partner with Simon Baron Development to welcome home 600 neighbors who are currently unsheltered, unhoused, or housing insecure.”

In 2011, the hotel was rebranded as the Stay on Main, dividing floors for guests and permanent residents, each having its own entrance. In 2014, New York real estate developer Richard Born purchased the hotel for $30 million, according to Popsugar. In 2016, the hotel was transferred over to Simon Baron Development, who secured the purchase with a 99-year lease. Planned repairs and restoration were estimated to be about $100 million.

The hotel officially closed in 2017. 

Simon Baron Development, headed by CEO Matt Baron, teamed up with the Skid Row Housing Trust two years later.

“Unlike other affordable housing and permanent supportive housing developments, this project was funded and will operate as self-sustaining with private capital,” said Baron, according to LA Mag. “We are really excited to bring this solution to the growing number of people who are suffering on the streets and are in need of a home.”

Dubbed the “Death Hotel,” the historic landmark on Skid Row has attracted much attention from those interested in the macabre, thanks to its long track record of shocking deaths. Some of the more notable connections include Elizabeth Short, the victim in the sensationalized Black Dahlia case, who was rumored to drink at the hotel’s bar days before her brutal 1947 murder. Serial killer Richard Ramirez also reportedly stayed at the hotel during his reign of terror in the 1980s.

In 1991, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger brutally raped and murdered three sex workers during his stay at the hotel.

Other reported deaths include a number of suicides, unsolved murders, and rapes since the hotel opened in the 1920s. Amy Price, who managed the hotel from 2007 to 2017, claimed there were 80 deaths alone during her 10-year tenure. 

"There's darkness everywhere you go," Price said in Netlix's Crime Scene. "Of course a lot of bad things have happened there, but there are so many different elements to the Cecil. I think it's nice to have a real story told about the hotel's history, not just 'Richard Ramirez lived there.'"

Project developers remain hopeful that the building's revamp will help heal a community, despite the nightmarish reputation that precedes The Cecil Hotel.

“This is the best use possible for this particular space and really can bring a lighter side to the darkness that the building had originally,” Atilano told LAist.

She added that the hotel could be home for "those who have maybe been in shelters for quite some time, who went through programs and have vouchers, but were unable to find suitable housing."

Rooms will be available for single renters who earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, according to LA Mag.

In 2017, the same year the Cecil Hotel closed its doors, the Los Angeles City Council voted The Cecil Hotel as an official landmark.

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