When Randy and Cheryl Berger met some 37 years ago at a UCLA frat party, they were bound by a mutual attraction. Four years later, they were glued by similar hopes for a future together. Now they seem to be forever entwined by the Lake Merritt Hotel, a property they purchased 23 years ago and just haven’t been able to get rid of since.
A Mediterranean Art Deco building constructed in 1927, the Berger’s purchased the property with plans of sprucing it up a bit before leasing units to long-term apartment renters. But after the earthquake of ’89 damaged the elevator shaft, any hope of attracting or keeping residents went down the drain.
In an attempt to roll with the punches, the couple then moved to plan B: turn the building into a collection of boutique hotel rooms. On January 1, 1991, they opened their doors once again—this time with 51 rooms on six floors. This business venture survived for an impressive 14 years before they were ready to call it quits.
After putting the Lake Merritt Hotel on the market, they were able to attract three potential buyers. The one they chose to go with was hoping to turn the building into an LGBT senior housing development. But when the sale didn’t go through, the Berger’s decided to simply hire the potential buyers on to run the establishment themselves.
Four years later, you guessed it: the business folded. However, it was this idea that gave Randy and Cheryl the push to re-open the doors to seniors that were looking for a place where they could be fiercely independent, while enjoying a hip and youthful atmosphere. The property is currently under the management of AgeSong and the couple has allowed 30-plus night hotel stays while they finish the transition.
For now, there’s a clear sign of new life at the Lake Merritt Hotel—and the Berger’s are finally convinced they’re meant to keep it forever.