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For the last decade Palm Springs has been trying to change the perception that it's a destination for the Bob Hope set. Will Vegas-like pool parties finally do the trick?

In ever-evolving Palm Springs, a downtown inn will be converted to a Hard Rock Hotel as the desert city continues to crank up its appeal for younger, hipper visitors.

By year end, the Hotel Zoso on Indian Canyon Drive will be turned into a 160-room Hard Rock, where guests can borrow electric Fender guitars to noodle on in their rooms or check out a fancy sound mixer to practice their DJ skills.

Hard Rock brand hotels, casinos and restaurants operate across the nation and in several countries. Among them are a Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood and a Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego. Hard Rock is scouting for a hotel in Los Angeles, said Michael Shindler, executive vice president of hotels and casinos for the Florida company.

The Hotel Zoso will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation to give it the Hard Rock vibe, Shindler said, with an amped-up pool scene and rock-themed bar and restaurant. Music memorabilia, one of Hard Rock’s trademarks, will line the walls.

Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs is intended to appeal to “the vacationer who is looking for a little more activity than riding around the Rancho Mirage golf course,” Shindler said. He also reached out to gay travelers, who have helped restore the city’s luster as a tourist destination.

“We welcome the gay tourist base,” he said.

Lines differentiating gay and straight establishments are blurring in Palm Springs, said local real estate broker Mark Spohn of Sperry Van Ness.

Operators of the Hard Rock Hotel also hope to make it a stop for people taking part in the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one of the country’s largest concert events.

Hard Rock is licensing its brand to the hotel owners to operate the inn as a Hard Rock franchise, Shindler said. Public records show the owners as the Prieto Marquis family and Zoso Aphm.

The Hotel Zoso opened in 2005, according to data provider LoopNet. Operating an independent hotel without the benefits of branding and scale that big chains have is challenging, industry observers say.

“It can work to be one of a kind, but you have to hit on all cylinders to make it work,” hotel consultant Bruce Baltin of PKF Consulting said.

“The city of Palm Springs is becoming more of a semi-urban resort destination,” Baltin said. “A Hard Rock will add to the energy of it.”

Santa Monica building is set for makeover

An unusually configured office, retail and residential building in downtown Santa Monica has been acquired by a Los Angeles developer who intends to figure out what it looked like 50 years ago and reestablish its authenticity.

Philip Orosco and his firm Pacshore Partners paid the Lionstone Group $20 million for the structure at 631 Wilshire Blvd. The four-story building looks Art Deco, a pre-World War II design style.

The facade probably dates from the 1990s, however, when a previous owner spent about $4 million adding a rooftop recreation room and two floors of apartments to the then two-story building, he said.

“It’s a confusing piece of architecture,” Orosco said. He plans to create a rear entrance for the office space and convert the 4,000-square-foot third-floor recreation room into creative office space with private roof decks facing the newly renovated Reed Park.

The original building was completed in the late 1950s with shops on the ground floor and offices upstairs. Orosco plans to spend millions of dollars to renovate it and make it look more like it did in the 1950s.

“We’re going to peel back the years to understand what it was and re-envision what it could be in the future,” he said.

The original materials were brick, concrete and wood.

The building’s neighborhood near Wilshire and 7th Street is being transformed by the expected 2015 arrival of light rail service in Santa Monica, said real estate broker Jim Jacobsen of Industry Partners, who helped arrange the sale.

A hotel is planned across the street, he said, and several apartment buildings are slated for construction nearby.

“With the train coming” to Santa Monica, Jacobsen said, “densities are increasing and it’s becoming a real walking city.”

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Tags: lgbt, palm springs

Photo credit: The outdoor pool at the Hotel Zozo, which Hard Rock will be taking over and remodeling. Joe Wolf / Flickr

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