Jingbo Lou did it for love. Why else would an ordinarily rational architect from Pasadena, Calif., buy a 1926 Renaissance-style hotel loaded with drug addicts and prostitutes and situated on a dodgy stretch of downtown Los Angeles’s pre-gentrified Koreatown? The property, after all, had been hanging in foreclosure and was ultimately bailed on by the previous owner, who had brought Mr. Lou in for architectural consulting.
It started in March of 2011 with a call from a remote relative of Mr. Lou’s wife who worked as a real estate broker. The relative was looking to negotiate a deal for a local investor who wanted to purchase the decrepit and poorly located Hotel Normandie, rename it the 420 and—pending the legalization of marijuana in California—turn the structure into the state’s first pot-friendly hotel.
“My wife’s relative told me nothing about the Normandie,” Mr. Lou recalled in an interview with Commercial Observer. “But when I first walked in and saw the ceiling height, the chandeliers, the columns, a wood-burning fireplace in the lobby, the grandness of it all, I knew it could be something special.”
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