Howard Hughes' Airport To Be Revitalized
By Heather McMahon | Online Only | Nov. 3, 2010
Howard Hughes' former aviation headquarters in Playa Vista, Calif., will be revitalized as an office "campus," thanks to an investment of more than $80 million.
Erected in 1941, the complex was part of Hughes' private airport, which housed the Hughes Aircraft Company, founded to further experiments in aviation technology. The 28-acre site includes a large, redwood hangar which once held Hughes' experiment in wooden aircraft, the Hercules (better known as the Spruce Goose). This seven-story hangar has been used over the years as a sound stage for film and television production for movies such as "The Aviator," "Titanic," and "Avatar."
The Ratkovich Company, a Los Angeles-based development firm known for its renovations of historic structures, recently purchased the property for $32.4 million. The property had been in ownership limbo for the last 20 years, and the 11 extant buildings stand in a state of deterioration. The structures are "remarkably beautiful, yet they had been left to rot," says Clare De Briere, Ratkovich's executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Ratkovich envisions transforming the site into a campus, complete with office and production spaces for entertainment and technology companies.
Brenda Levin of Levin & Associates is the master plan architect for the $50 million project as well as for the individual buildings. The primary objective is to create a campus environment and to stabilize each building, which will include the addition of new infrastructure.
"We want to secure the buildings' futures as historical and cultural resources," Levin says. "At the same time, I would call this a revitalization project. … We want to honor the past, yet acknowledge and prepare for future use."
The Herculean hangar will be refitted with at least five separate sound stages so that multiple productions can be undertaken at any one time. The other 10 buildings will be turned into creative office suites. In honor of the site's aviation history, the property has been renamed the Hercules Campus.
"It was a place which embodied creative entrepreneurship in the 1940s, and it will hold similarly creative entrepreneurs of the 21st century," Levin says.
The Ratkovich Company anticipates that the site will be ready for tenants by the summer of 2011 and will be completed in early 2012.
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