In 2014, the California-based agriculture company Sunkist Growers, Inc. decamped from its longtime San Fernando Valley headquarters in Sherman Oaks and ventured to Valencia, in northwestern Los Angeles County, to establish a new headquarters. Since 1893, Sunkist has been a household name throughout the United States, known for its fresh, sweet-and-tangy citrus fruit products. In the 1950s, the fruits were popularized as Christmas treats, and later, in the 1970s and ’80s, the company’s soda collection was the star of several commercials soundtracked by classic hits from the Beach Boys.
Today, the now-vacant 8.3-acre Sherman Oaks campus that once served as Sunkist’s corporate headquarters is being transformed into Citrus Commons: a mixed-use property set within a new park spanning from Riverside Drive to the Los Angeles River. Johnson Fain, an L.A.-based integrated architecture, interior design, and planning firm, is the force behind this effort to maintain the original bones of the Sunkist headquarters office building. New structures will also be built on the campus. Back in February, the Los Angeles City Council praised the Citrus Commons project because it is, as Sherman Oaks neighborhood chair Jeffrey Kalban stated, “an outstanding example of a developer [IMT Residential] and community working together for a very special and exceptional project.” Three new residential buildings and aparking garage will surround the preexisting Brutalist Sunkist campus to comprise Citrus Commons. The headquarters were originally designed in 1971 by AC Martin and Associates.
In total, 126,674 square feet of office space will be upgraded into a creative Class A working environment. Along with the renovated office building, 249 luxury residential units will occupy parts of three new residential buildings, along with 27,000 square feet of community-serving commercial space. A low-rise parking garage with space for up to 1,095 cars will be realized next to the wood and concrete mixed-use buildings. The overall scheme weaves nearly 4 acres of open public space throughout the complex; destinations will include gardens and a spacious plaza.
The trio of new buildings at Citrus Commons will visually reference the Brutalist design of the erstwhile Sunkist HQ building by incorporating concrete and geometric forms throughout. In reference to the agricultural heritage of the San Fernando Valley, timber will also be a prominent material in the new structures. A new parking garage will be clad in timber lath; these uneven horizontal strips of wood on the garage’s facade will add a textural element that connects with the wooden infill cladding on Citrus Commons’ new buildings.
A diverse landscape, rich with gardens that will offer prime outdoor gathering spots and a reimagined Sunkist central atrium, is expected in the interstitial space between old and new buildings. Johnson Fain is taking steps to design Citrus Commons to be warm and inviting for the Sherman Oaks community. While the project was met with resistance at first, a consensus was reached with local stakeholders. As of last year, site work for the project had begun.
With these indoor and outdoor improvements, the development is on track to make good on Sunkist’s sunny slogan: “Good Vibrations.”