On a red-carpeted stage adjacent to a grand, white marble staircase, Brenna Whitaker coos familiar verses that talk of a magical place somewhere over the rainbow, but her rendition is anything but typical. Backed by a six-piece jazz band, the platinum blonde vocalist rekindles the works of jazz greats Etta James, Dinah Washington, and Peggy Lee (to name a few) and incorporates them regularly into a weekly, Sunday-night jazz performance at the Residences at W Hollywood. Those performances often attract an audience of Hollywood heavy hitters, as well as an equally impressive list of accomplished musicians who come to take in the performances—sometimes stepping on stage themselves. And for those who own one of the W Hollywood’s private residences (www.whollywoodresidence.com), the best seats in the house each Sunday night are often theirs for the taking.
Set on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, the hotel faces the Art Deco facade of the historic Pantages Theatre, a venue that hosted the Academy Awards throughout the 1950s. As Ron Barnes, the director of sales for the hotel’s residences, explains, Hollywood and Vine once was the epicenter of Hollywood as the rest of the world knew it, and it’s a section of Los Angeles that currently is enjoying a revival. That resurgence is attracting many people to the area, and it’s why 68 of the 143 residences, which range in price from $549,000 to just under $4 million, already are spoken for. In fact, the W Hollywood is the first new hotel developed in the area in more than two decades.
The property offers a "whatever, whenever" concierge service, which—as the name implies—extends to amenities ranging from room service, valet parking and all things in between . . . all offered 24 hours a day. An expansive, private roof deck with a pool provides residents with an oasis in downtown Hollywood, but Barnes says it’s really that downtown Hollywood location that counts the most. "There are a lot of really interesting and connected people in this building and they like being able to conduct business here," he says. "They can take meetings on the roof and it’s easy for them to meet investors or clients or business partners because of the hotel access. If you’re going to do business in Hollywood, there’s no better place to do it."
Conversely, residents who buy into the fractional villa ownership program at the Grand Del Mar (www.villasatthegranddelmar.com) in San Diego do so mostly for the life of leisure that it can provide. According to Thomas Voss, the resort’s president, the majority of villa owners are golfers who were first attracted to the property thanks to its 7,160-yard, Tom Fazio–designed course. Spread over 380 acres, the course meanders through Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve and benefits from dramatic elevation changes, rolling hills, scenic valleys, various water features, and a 50,000-square-foot clubhouse. "There’s not anything like it," Voss says of the course and its uniqueness to the area.
At the time this story went to press, 26 fractional ownership opportunities were available at the resort, each costing $475,000 and providing five weeks of residence. However, prospective homeowners can purchase more than one fractional unit if they so choose; to date, one villa (out of eight total) is owned outright by a single resident. Much like the rest of the resort, the villas are defined by a confluence of various Mediterranean architecture styles, though Voss says the property’s setting is the main attraction, with its private golf club, an equestrian center, and guided nature hikes. "We’re located in a very special place," he says, "and that’s what people like."
In most circumstances, prospective homeowners can’t move into a new neighborhood temporarily just to determine if they’d want to live there full time. There are no test-drives when it comes to home ownership. However, Alan Fuerstman, the CEO and founder of Montage Hotels and Resorts, says that’s exactly what prospective homeowners can do when they stay at the Montage Laguna Beach (www.montagelagunabeach.com). While the resort’s villas ($6 million to $7 million, on average) and single-family homes ($20 million and up) don’t often come on the market, Fuerstman says that by staying in the resort itself, guests hoping to someday live on-site can experience all of the same amenities and quality of service that residents receive on a daily basis. Those perks of ownership include access to a private beach, use of the spa, daily housekeeping services, 24-hour, in-room dining, and meals at any one of the resort’s many restaurants.
The residential aspect of the resort was a part of the property’s original plans, which allowed for the creation of an enclave of homes and villas that fosters a sense of security and privacy. But, as Fuerstman explains, the property makes that a priority in all aspects of residential life. "We are very protective of the privacy of our residents, as we are very protective of the privacy of the high-profile guests that we host," he says. "It’s something that we’re highly sensitized to because of the nature of who our high-profile guests are."