New Plan To Save Los Angeles' Century Plaza Hotel
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Aug. 19, 2010
Last week, the developer who owns the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles revealed plans to renovate the hotel and build condominium and offices behind the 1966 structure. Michael Rosenfeld of Next Century Associates had initially planned to tear down the 800,000-square-foot hotel, designed by Minoru Yamasaki, who later designed the World Trade Center in New York City.
"I was absolutely thrilled that the developer had a change of heart—with my very active encouragement," says Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who remembers watching the construction of the Century Plaza Hotel. Koretz had been dismayed in October 2008, when Next Century Associates announced plans to raze the historic building and construct a new hotel in its place. "I said it would be built over my dead body. We pointed out to them that it's a large site, and they could preserve the hotel."
Rosenfeld's new $1.5 billion plan calls for two 46-story skyscrapers to be constructed behind the hotel. The concept, designed by architect Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, hasn't been approved yet; the city's Cultural Heritage Commission, Planning Department, and City Council must sign off on Rosenfeld's plan.
The Los Angeles Conservancy and the National Trust for Historic Preservation worked with Rosenfeld to find a way around demolition.
"Councilmember Koretz encouraged the parties to get together find a solution that would be additive to the community in every respect," Rosenfeld says. "We enjoyed working closely with the Los Angeles Conservancy and National Trust to come up with a solution that not only honored the past but embraced the future."
Endangered No More
In June 2009, when the threat of demolition still loomed large, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Century Plaza one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The collaboration was a positive experience, says Linda Dishman, executive director of the Los Angeles Conservancy. "We listened to each other, learned a lot about the issues we all faced, and used what we learned to find what we think is a great preservation solution," Dishman said in an e-mail. "We're excited about this project because it preserves the historic hotel as its centerpiece and shows that preservation and development are not mutually exclusive."
Councilmember Koretz is relieved that the Century Plaza Hotel will be spared. "For that to have been torn down on my watch would have been a great tragedy for me personally. I grew up on the West side of Los Angeles with my pet peeve being that we tear down our history," he says. Once the new plan is approved, he says, "it will be the iconic building on the West side hopefully forever."
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