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JDRCRASH Apr 28, 2009 8:07 PM

LOS ANGELES | Century Plaza Hotel development (2 towers) | 46 FLOORS
 
Preservationists, developer square off over Century Plaza Hotel

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2008-12/44011275.jpg

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2009-04/46554615.jpg
Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times
New owners have revealed plans to demolish the Century Plaza hotel.


The owners plan to demolish the Century City hotel and replace it with a $2-billion commercial and residential complex. The Los Angeles Conservancy wants to save it.

By Martha Groves
April 28, 2009

Minutes after their return from the moon in 1969, the three Apollo 11 astronauts gazed out the window of their isolation chamber as President Nixon welcomed them home and invited them to a state dinner in their honor.

The setting would be a magnificent ballroom in the Century Plaza hotel in "Los Angeles' space-age Century City complex," as the Los Angeles Times described it.

Forty years beyond, that crescent-shaped monument of mid-century modernism, where guests enjoyed specially created "moon rocks" of green almond paste dusted with chocolate, is poised to become the focus of what promises to be an intense battle over preservation.

New owners have revealed plans to demolish the hotel, no longer the VIP magnet it once was, and replace it with a $2-billion complex that includes two 50-story towers containing condos, offices, shops and a smaller luxury hotel.

The Los Angeles Conservancy is determined to stop them. To bolster its campaign, it has enlisted the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which today put the 726-room Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel on its annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places.


"By naming this structure to the list, the National Trust is demonstrating that the preservation of recent past and modern buildings is as important to our cultural record as preserving architecture that's from the Victorian period or Art Deco era," said Christine Madrid French, director of the trust's nascent Modernism + Recent Past Initiative.

Of course, there is some debate about whether a hotel less than half a century old deserves the same level of protection as century-old structures.

When Los Angeles developer Michael Rosenfeld announced his redevelopment plans last December, he said the hotel's nearly 600-foot length impeded pedestrians' connections with other parts of the neighborhood. The new design, he said, would feature an open, tree-lined area between the two proposed towers that would facilitate people's meanderings among offices, shops and restaurants.

"The naming of the hotel as a historic place is not supported by the facts," Rosenfeld said. "The building . . . does not qualify for consideration under stringent criteria for historic designation of a building of this recent age.

"We're building a landmark for the future," he added.

But the notion of razing the Century Plaza alarmed the Los Angeles Conservancy. It nominated the structure for the trust's endangered list. Previously, other sites it suggested had made the list, including the original McDonald's in Downey, the Santa Anita racetrack, St. Vibiana's Cathedral and Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House, one of the first residences constructed from concrete block.

Having seen the demolition of other Century City landmarks in recent years -- notably the ABC Entertainment Center, home of the Shubert Theatre, and the headquarters of Welton Becket & Associates, the firm that first designed Century City -- the conservancy did not want to see another mid-century building destroyed.

"This building has both architectural and cultural significance," Linda Dishman, the conservancy's executive director, said of the Century Plaza. "We really thought this was the line in the sand."

The 19-story hotel on Avenue of the Stars at Constellation Boulevard, which opened in 1966, was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, later to gain fame for designing New York's World Trade Center towers.

Almost from its beginning, the hotel attracted celebrities, with Prince Andrew credited as the first international guest of renown. Politicians and other world dignitaries stayed so often that in the 1970s the hotel earned the nickname "the Western White House." President Reagan threw two victory parties there.

More notoriously, Hollywood studio chief and embezzler David Begelman committed suicide in one of the rooms.

Dishman noted that the hotel has been an epicenter of Westside social, political and celebrity functions.

"That unique cross-section has brought many people into contact with the building," she said.

She acknowledged that buildings typically must be at least 50 years old for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, unless they have exceptional significance. A mid-century building from the 1960s, she said, "is not the first thing people think of when they think historic preservation.

"We believe this building has exceptional significance," she said.

Rosenfeld, who bought the property a year ago for $366.5 million with backing from D.E. Shaw Group, has said his idea was influenced by a proposal unveiled in early 2007 to make Century City greener, less car-centric and more pedestrian-friendly. His architect, Henry N. Cobb, contends that the new configuration would help connect key parts of the neighborhood and create a public gathering place.

National Trust President Richard Moe took issue with that.

"The owners bought it and called it a jewel in their hometown but now want to demolish it as part of the greening of Century City?" he said. "They're doing just the opposite. They couldn't do a more un-green thing."

Moe maintains that the building contains a great deal of "embodied energy," the energy required to manufacture the materials, transport them to the site and assemble them into a building. He has recently been speaking to groups nationwide about this notion to demonstrate that historic preservation can be a tool to achieve sustainability.

"It's an 800,000-square-foot hotel," Moe said. "The embodied energy is estimated to be the equivalent of 7 million gallons of gasoline. . . . If you tear the building down, you lose all that energy."

Not every old building deserves to be saved, Moe said, but if an older building can serve a new use, then preserving it makes sense for environmental as well as architectural and cultural reasons.

"We are trying to save this building," Moe said. "We're going to be fully engaged with the Los Angeles Conservancy to try to use every means possible to save this building."

martha.groves@latimes.com

JDRCRASH Apr 28, 2009 8:09 PM

I personally think design for the bases of the new towers should be integrated with the Hotel.

BrandonJXN Apr 28, 2009 9:14 PM

Much larger rendering. Btw..for those not in the know, these are proposed in Century City. About 10 miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

http://mms.businesswire.com/bwapps/m...d=5&download=1

LosAngelesSportsFan Apr 28, 2009 9:46 PM

no question about it, tear down the old one and built these in its place.

Quixote Apr 28, 2009 10:29 PM

Save the Century Plaza Hotel!

NYguy Apr 29, 2009 12:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDRCRASH (Post 4221324)

Looks like an improvement.

Quote:

The Los Angeles Conservancy is determined to stop them. To bolster its campaign, it has enlisted the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which today put the 726-room Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel on its annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places.
Where do those NIMBYs think they are? Manhattan? ;)

Quote:

"The owners bought it and called it a jewel in their hometown but now want to demolish it as part of the greening of Century City?" he said. "They're doing just the opposite. They couldn't do a more un-green thing."

Moe maintains that the building contains a great deal of "embodied energy," the energy required to manufacture the materials, transport them to the site and assemble them into a building. He has recently been speaking to groups nationwide about this notion to demonstrate that historic preservation can be a tool to achieve sustainability.

"It's an 800,000-square-foot hotel," Moe said. "The embodied energy is estimated to be the equivalent of 7 million gallons of gasoline. . . . If you tear the building down, you lose all that energy."

Not every old building deserves to be saved, Moe said, but if an older building can serve a new use, then preserving it makes sense for environmental as well as architectural and cultural reasons.

"We are trying to save this building," Moe said. "We're going to be fully engaged with the Los Angeles Conservancy to try to use every means possible to save this building."
This guy sounds like a nut.

213 Apr 29, 2009 1:01 PM

Mixed feelings. On the one hand, the Century Plaza is neither landmark architecture nor among Yamasaki's signature work. Its future as a top-tier hotel is not bright, and it's hard to imagine how this particular design could be appealingly re-used. That it was once favored by presidents and iconic celebrities is not, in the context of Los Angeles, a historically exceptional claim.

On the other hand, 600-foot towers would be quite imposing for that location, adjoined as it is by tracts of single-family homes. "Less car-centric" is doubtful -- deceitful, even -- considering the project's intended demographic and a lack of meaningful transit.

My sense is that Rosenfeld's stronger opposition will come from homeowner groups to the west. At least one District 5 candidate is already leveraging the issue.

sentinel Apr 29, 2009 3:45 PM

I like the new proposal, but I agree that it would be nice to keep the existing building - perhaps do a really nice renovation of the existing hotel and integrate just one tower instead of the two on the existing site. Look at the Fountainbleu renovation in Miami.. I think it happens too often (at least that's been the trend in Chicago lately, unfortunately :( ) where historic building with a lot of life still left in them become underutilized and are then considered obsolete. Renovation costs might be greater for an existing building but then end-result might be more interesting than starting completely from scratch.

JDRCRASH Apr 29, 2009 4:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NYguy (Post 4221874)
Looks like an improvement.

I have to admit, it's better than a giant bented domino. Other than than it's history, there is nothing really architecturally significant about it, But given that the NIMBYS here are probably stronger than those in New York, sometimes appeasing to them can help move a project along. I mean look at the nearby planned Westfield development. The developer agreed to shave off some height of one of the new towers.

Quote:

This guy sounds like a nut.
When I first saw his comment in the newspaper, I was thinking, "This has gotta be the most clueless NIMBY in the city. Of course it takes energy to tear down a structure and build new ones. But those emissions pale in comparison to those from the daily usage of gasoline in Southern California alone."

This is probably someone that wants to get political recognition. Unfortunately, using this "Embodied Energy" excuse to save mostly meaningless structures is futile and definitely going to fail.

JDRCRASH Aug 6, 2009 4:47 AM

Here's an idea:
 
via Curbed,

Quote:

Century Plaza Hotel Solution: Cats and Dogs, Living Together

Wednesday, August 5, 2009, by Dakota


http://la.curbed.com/uploads/2009.08.happay.jpg


In the "tear it down or keep it up" debate over the Century Plaza, a reader sends in a Photoshopped image of a possible compromise, and a solution that may not be so unrealistic if developer Michael Rosenfeld can't tear down the hotel. "Sure seems the most basic of compromises," he writes. Looks like we even get to keep all the green grass and the colorful background.
Source:

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2009/0...g_together.php

colemonkee Aug 6, 2009 10:16 PM

A novel concept, but I'm sure they would run into FAR issues and serious opposition from people who - not too unreasonably - would claim that the addition of the two towers would be too dense, even for Century City.

Common sense would dictate that from a zoning perspective it's an "either or" situation, not both. Then again, common sense never made Los Angeles its home for too long...

JDRCRASH Aug 6, 2009 10:26 PM

Yes, but could the Purple Line offset some of the density issues?

sopas ej Aug 7, 2009 1:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JDRCRASH (Post 4392342)

Oh that looks awful.

I could understand wanting to save the Century Plaza if it had been kept in its original condition, but anyone who's been in there knows that the ground floor and lobby have been totally gutted; barely anything original from the 1960s remains. If it does ever get National Historic Landmark Status does that mean they'll remodel it back to its original 60s design?

JDRCRASH Aug 7, 2009 8:25 AM

It's pretty clear the NIMBY's are desperate to save it, so whether it will be torn down be may be besides the point soon, especially since it is moving through the Historical Landmark process.

phillyscooter Aug 13, 2009 2:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by sopas ej (Post 4393783)
Oh that looks awful.

I could understand wanting to save the Century Plaza if it had been kept in its original condition, but anyone who's been in there knows that the ground floor and lobby have been totally gutted; barely anything original from the 1960s remains. If it does ever get National Historic Landmark Status does that mean they'll remodel it back to its original 60s design?

If they return it to the 60's lobby complete with orange shag then I agree.

Lecom Aug 13, 2009 8:34 PM

It does sound like it holds quite a bit of significance for mid-century Americana, but it's a butt-ugly building set in a very pedestrian unfriendly environment. At least the new design addresses that issue through pleasant, walkable ground level. If only more developers opted for ground treatments like these rather than having a big ol' podium with some stores and a parking garage.

ethereal_reality Oct 12, 2009 1:03 AM

1964 illustration by Carlos Diniz of the Century Plaza's plaza. :)



http://img194.imageshack.us/img194/4...plazaillus.jpg
Carlos Diniz

JDRCRASH Oct 12, 2009 5:01 PM

Don't like all the brown and yellow.:yuck:

ethereal_reality Oct 13, 2009 12:57 AM

I agree, it's a bit odd.

ethereal_reality Aug 11, 2010 9:16 PM

http://a.imageshack.us/img413/9254/cplaza.jpg
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners





Here's the link.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-f...,5350941.story


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