Spectrum News 1 Visits the Dunbar Hotel with Dan Withee

Spectrum News 1 Visits the Dunbar Hotel with Dan Withee

Dan Withee was back at the Dunbar Hotel, six years after the firm completed the renovation of the historic property. He joined Spectrum News 1’s Nic Cha Kim for a video tour of the hotel, which is now the centerpiece of the multigenerational affordable housing community known as Dunbar Village. The hotel includes 41 apartments for low income seniors as well as an inviting gathering space in the restored atrium, a gym, and laundry room.

Built in 1928, the Dunbar was the only first-class hotel in Los Angeles owned by and for African Americans. During the 30’s and 40’s it was frequented by the leading jazz musicians and performers of the era. It was designated as a Historic-Cultural Landmark (No. 131) in 1974, and two years later was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In his interview with Kim, Withee discussed the challenges of adapting the nearly derelict building.  Over the years the Dunbar had suffered serious neglect following several ill-conceived renovations. The original art deco design featured a central open-air courtyard that had been covered. The new design reopens the atrium and introduces a glass roof, creating an inviting gathering place for residents. The restored open atrium allows borrowed daylight into the lobby. Interior finishes were selected to recall the Dunbar’s heyday and to maintain the grandeur of key spaces like the lobby. It was here that three murals were discovered, which had been painted over and are now restored.

The revitalized project was made possible through a partnership that included Thomas Safran & Associates, Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry, the Los Angeles Housing Department, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, and the Coalition for Responsible Development.