Monday, June 1, 2009

Century Plaza Endangered?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put the Century Plaza Hotel on its list of "America's 11 most endangered historic places." Ouch. Endangered?

At first I stumbled over the word historic, because the hotel was built in 1966. When I read more, though, I realized it is a classic. The architect (Minoru Yamasaki) designed not only the Century City towers, but also the World Trade Center Twin Towers a few years later. The National Trust site has a one-minute video using archival footage to show how little the hotel has changed over the last 40 years, and what sort of events it has hosted (surprise guest appearance: Tricky Dick!)

The picture above came from the Los Angeles Conservancy page. Technically, the hotel has 19 floors but that's not what you can count--some of the floors are subterranean. The photo on the left is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection and was taken in 1985, looking east. And down below is a current shot of the hotel from something called "Luxury Los Angeles Hotel."

So why is it endangered? The owners (Next Century Associates--boo--hiss) announced last December that they wanted to tear it down and build two new towers in its place. More condos and a boutique hotel, yeah!

Although the hotel continues to be operated as a Hyatt Regency, Next Century acquired the Century Plaza one year ago (June 2008) for $366 million--about half a mil per room, according to this story from Hotels Online. Next Century CEO Michael Rosenfeld is quoted as saying, “Properties like the Century Plaza Hotel are one-of-a-kind; they have lasting value in any economic environment.”

That was then...In December, Rosenfeld changed his tune to: "The opportunity to redefine an urban center in one of the great international cities comes along once in a lifetime. " Aw, gee. According to this very upbeat article, Rosenfeld unveiled a $2 billion dollar mixed-use project for the site that will increase tax revenue to the city and employ 5,000 people.

OTOH, the National Trust calls the demolition a total waste. I'm inclined to side with them.

The LA Conservancy has a page explaining what individuals can do to voice their support of the sorta-old classic hotel, and there's also an LA Conservancy Facebook page. Become a fan. AND--Pictures! See the hotel from groundbreaking to now, at this special Facebook page.

One last link, to an LA Times story I haven't even read yet, about the hotel, by Christopher Hawthorne.

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