In a surprise announcement today, the owners of LA’s once-doomed Century Plaza Hotel revealed plans to save the modernist icon from imminent destruction. The news came in a statement released by the Los Angeles Conservancy, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the hotel’s owners, Next Century Associates.
Next Century’s plans to raze the legendary Hotel had included the construction of two 50-story Pei Cobb Freed & Partners hotel/residential towers. The roughly five acre site would have included over 100,000 square feet of new office space, a five star hotel, condos and over 100,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The revised plans, which will include additional development on the site, are expected to be complete in four to five months.
Just a scant nine months ago, the Conservancy and the Trust made a last ditch effort to save the structure by including it on the Trust’s 2009 list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America. It joined a list that included Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois. In the following months, members of both organizations, along with Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, worked with Next Century to find ways to save the building.
“Next Century’s willingness to embrace a plan that preserves the hotel is a great step forward,” said Councilmember Koretz. “The process serves as a model of how a developer can work together with the preservation community to bring forward a solution that preserves an important structure, allows future development on the property, and better serves the goals of the community.”
Designed in the mid-sixties by architect and engineer Minoru Yamasaki, famous for New York’s Twin Towers and their triangular Century City doppelgangers, the Theme Towers, the Century Plaza was the focal point for Century City, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The 726- room hotel, designed on an ellipse, reflected that era’s fascination for the monolith. It has been host to every sitting president since Richard Nixon, along with countless heads of state, dignitaries, and celebrities. Had the hotel been demolished, it would have joined other Yamasaki structures lost in the last decade that includes the World Trade Center and the disastrous Priutt-Igoe Housing project in St. Louis.
Next Century has retained Pei, Cobb and Freed, along with Gensler as the project architects, Rios Clemente Hale as the Landscape architects, and Marmol + Radziner as the preservation architects.
“Preservation of the hotel could only be achieved if sufficient additional development was permitted on the site,” said Michael Rosenfeld, executive manager of Next Century Associates. Time will tell just exactly how Next Century plans to take advantage of this apparent act of good will.