On the eastern end of Malibu, visitors can spend the night at the Malibu Beach Inn, often spending $350 or more per night for a room in the luxury hotel.
Eight or so miles down the road, on the other end of Malibu, sits the Malibu Riviera Motel, a humble family-run spot that looks much the same as it did when it opened in 1949. Rooms at the motel are often half the cost of those at the Malibu Beach Inn, or less.
But come January, for the first time in its 65-year history, the Malibu Riviera Motel is changing hands, after the Wilcox family sold the aging inn to an investment group.
The motel, which sits tucked away off Pacific Coast Highway just below the foot of Kanan Dume Road, has been owned and operated by the Wilcox family since early Malibu settlers Wayne and Helen Wilcox built it in the late ’40s.
“I think that what may have inspired this is … they felt like a lot of people have been doing a lot for Malibu and they wanted to give it to somebody who would want to do something new for this end of Malibu,” Riviera Motel co-manager Maggie Pedersen said. Pedersen has helped manage the motel since 2013 with her boyfriend, Rob Wilcox, the third generation Wilcox to run the motel.
“This has all been bittersweet,” Rob Wilcox, who took over management from his father, Gary Wilcox, said during a brief phone conversation with The Malibu Times.
Pedersen expanded on the feeling.
“The thing that I loved most about this motel is that it never changed; it has still kept its charm and the nostalgic part of it,” Pedersen said. And from what she understands through conversations with the new owners, the motel’s overhaul will not change the character of the place.
“It’s not going to be torn down,” Pedersen said. “The structure of the building is still going to be the same, they’re just going to renovate it and give it a major facelift.
“[The Wilcox family] just wants to give it to somebody that’s going to give it new life.”
In recent years, the 13-room motel has reportedly fallen into a bit of disrepair, according to reviews on travel websites like Expedia.com and Yelp. According to Pederson, full repairs and updates to the motel, which boasts of famous guests like Marilyn Monroe and Bob Dylan, could come to at least half a million dollars.
Shaun Gilbert, a member and spokesperson of the investment group, said they are looking forward to beginning work on the historic property.
“We’re very excited for the unique opportunity that the Malibu Riviera presents and eager to get started,” Gilbert said in an emailed statement to The Malibu Times.
Despite the transition being, as Rob Wilcox said, “bittersweet,” the Wilcoxes and Pedersen are also looking forward to the future the new owners can give to the aging motel.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with [the new owners], and the reason we sold it to him was we didn’t want someone to come here and tear it down and build a strip mall. He’s very passionate about keeping it in its original state,” Pedersen said. “That was really important to the Wilcox family, is they kept it as part of the history of Malibu.”
Part of that, Pedersen said, was “luxury on a budget.”
“It’s still going to be affordable to families that can come here and stay here,” Pedersen said.
Renovations are expected to begin in January 2016.