The iconic Viper Room on the Sunset Strip may soon be getting an ultra-modern new home. Arizona-based Silver Creek Development has proposed a new mixed-use structure that would replace the existing block between Larabee Street and San Vincente Boulevard. Silver Creek bought the stretch of low-rise commercial buildings that includes the legendary venue back in 2018 for $80 million.
The development took a step closer to becoming a reality this week as the city of West Hollywood released its environmental impact report for the project. According to plans, the new structure (dubbed 8850 Sunset Blvd) would rise 15 stories to 189 feet above the Strip. Included in the design is a 115-room hotel, 41 residential condos (with 10 marked as affordable housing), a restaurant on the 15th floor, retail, a large digital billboard—as well as a space for the Viper Room, which is owned by Silver Creek and will be incorporated in the project as a live music venue with the same name.
The developers tapped Culver City-based Morphosis Architects to design the complex which features two wings: a lush, balconied east wing that would house the hotel, and a sleek west wing that would house residential units. A 120-foot gap separates the two, similar to the Emerson College building in Hollywood that Morphosis also designed.
Should the final plans be approved, demolition would commence in September/October 2022, and construction would continue through April 2025.
Before becoming the Viper Room, the location at 8852 Sunset opened as a grocery store in 1921. In 1946, Lew Leroy turned it into his Cotton Club (no relation to the New York or Culver City venues) “promising 5 acts, 5 piece band, for all-time-doings” said an announcement in the Daily News. The building was bought by mobster Mickey Cohen in 1947, and he reportedly conducted his operations out of the basement. Meanwhile, the club space rebranded several more times over the next half-century until, in 1993, Johnny Depp and fellow 21 Jump Street actor Sal Jenco bought the venue and opened the Viper Room. That same year, actor River Phoenix collapsed out front from a drug overdose. In 1997, Michael Hutchence, frontman of INXS, made his final stage appearance at the Viper Room before committing suicide a week later.
In recent years, the Viper Room has traced a similar path as other rock venues along the Sunset Strip, becoming more a symbol of an era than a playground for celebrities or a launching pad for new bands.
The Strip has undergone something of an overhaul during the past few years. Several new hotel projects (including the Pendry Hotel that replaced the House of Blues) have opened recently. Meanwhile, the former Hustler Store is slated to be redeveloped as the members-only Arts Club. The West Hollywood-based Charles Company has proposed a 19-story tower next door to the new Edition Hotel. And further east along the Strip, at the intersection of Sunset and Crescent Heights, a residential complex designed by Frank Gehry is scheduled to begin construction this year.
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