Los Angeles’s Hollywood & Highland complex to get new name, shift focus away from retail

Goodbye, White Elephants

Los Angeles’s Hollywood & Highland complex to get new name, shift focus away from retail

Hollywood’s most conspicuous—and Vegas-esque—retail center will be revamped to include commercial office space and other more local-friendly features. (DJM/Gaw Capital UA)

Hollywood & Highland, the over-400,000-square-foot entertainment and shopping complex that presides over one of the most traffic-snarled intersections in Los Angeles, will be getting a new name and a new, less retail-centric purpose as part of a major $100 million design overhaul. Renovation work at the nearly 20-year-old complex, next to the Oscars-hosting Dolby Theatre and the TCL Chinese Theatre, is set to commence later this year and wrap up in late 2021. As for the new name, Hollywood & Highland will be rechristened as Ovation Hollywood.

“An ovation is a sign of appreciation for someone’s work, talent, or effort,” Stenn Parton, chief retail officer at DJM, the Californian real estate development firm spearheading the transformation alongside Gaw Capital USA, said in a press release. “At Ovation Hollywood we applaud the creators, doers, teachers, doctors, entertainers, and small business owners that make this community sing. During this tough time for the world at large, we want to create a place of recognition, celebration and coming together in search of what it means to experience one of the most iconic places in the world.”

Gaw Capital USA and DJM purchased the complex last year for $325 million, and are the property’s third owners in its relatively short lifespan.

When the five-level mall-cum-tourist magnet opened in 2001 at the site of the old Hollywood Hotel, it ushered in a family-friendly metamorphosis (a sea change similar to the sanitization of New York’s Times Square, which Hollywood & Highland is often compared to) within the formerly gritty heart of Hollywood, attracting a wave of new development to the still-transforming area. While the EE&K-designed complex (EE&K firm merged with Perkins Eastman in 2010) helped to reshape and revitalize Hollywood’s main commercial stretch, Hollywood & Highland itself has struggled and long been a frequent target of criticism, much of it design-focused.

rendering of ovation hollywood
Instead of a tourist-snaring shopping mall presented in a mishmash of architectural styles, Ovation Hollywood is meant to be a toned-down and diversified town square of sorts catering to both locals and tourists. (DJM/Gaw Capital USA)

In 2007, Curbed Los Angeles bestowed Hollywood & Highland as the winner of its “Ugliest Building in Los Angeles” contest, saying: “It’s like a horrible, bad dream, but it’s real. And it’s ours.”

Indeed, from an aesthetic standpoint, Hollywood & Highland operates within a garish, self-referential Tinseltown universe in which it’s perfectly normal to model a shopping mall’s central courtyard—a store-lined enclosure flanked by massive elephant sculptures perched atop soaring pedestals—after the lavish set of Intolerance, D.W. Griffith’s 1916 follow-up to The Birth of a Nation. (Curbed has also covered the bizarre cinematic influence, which also involves Ray Bradbury and is likely completely lost on most tourists.)

As part of the Gensler-headed design revamp, the courtyard’s signature pachyderm statuary will be put into retirement and other Babylonian design flourishes will be removed and refigured in favor of a more restrained aesthetic that, per the Los Angeles Times, offers “a modern take on Art Deco style inspired by the upward beams of klieg lights once common at Hollywood movie premieres.”

A press statement from Gaw Capital USA elaborated that the renovation will see the ailing complex “moving away from outdated architecture, an uninspired project identity, and confusing layout.” As such, the facade and color will be simplified, new public art will be installed, outdoor public space/landscaping will be enhanced and updated, and navigating the complex will be less disorienting.

As Gensler’s David Glover told the Times, the complex needs to “pivot and transform away from being a hub of transaction to a hub of culture. What we did was an editing job to recast this into a 21st-century development.”

However, retail won’t be erased entirely from the renovated and rebranded complex as there will be 135,000 square feet of retail space with a “refreshed tenant mix,” a Gaw Capital USA statement said. Ovation Hollywood will ultimately remain a shopping and entertainment center, albeit a more diversified one that, according to its developers, better “reflects the modern-day global city that surrounds it,” Gaw’s statement said.

Dedicated dining and entertainment space—85,000 square feet and 65,000 square feet, respectively—will also remain. The most notable new addition to the complex will be the conversion of two upper floors, currently home to event space and struggling retail, into commercial office space encompassing a total of 100,000 square feet—about a third of the complex.

Rendering of Ovation Hollywood and Hollywood Walk of Fame
While Ovation Hollywood takes shape, the 15-block Hollywood Walk of Fame will also undergo a pedestrian-friendly overhaul as part of a separate but complementary project also involving Gensler. (DJM/Gaw Capital USA)

As noted by the Times, a major goal is to boost the appeal of the complex to Angelenos, which is “no small challenge for a center so devoted to tourism at its inception that it included duty-free shopping.”

“Our mantra is, tourists want to go where the locals go,” DJM’s Parton told the Times of a redevelopment strategy that relies less on big-name national chains—specifically eateries—and more on a curated mix of hip, locally beloved bars and restaurants that will serve as natural post-work gathering spots for workers in the new office-dedicated floors, which are aimed at media, tech, and creative industries.

Retail offerings will move away from, at least partially, ubiquitous shopping mall staples as well. In the end, the hope is that Hollywood & Highland, long eschewed by locals, will be reborn as a lively town square that’s less a gaudy temple of consumerism and more a multifaceted hub where neighborhood residents and workers can shop, dine, and socialize. And, of course, tourists, who have largely emptied out of Hollywood during the COVID-19 crisis, are more than welcome to join, too.