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Getting to Know You: Threatened Century Plaza

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Tear down the Century Plaza! Preserve the Century Plaza! Wait, what's the Century Plaza and where is it? Last week's big news about developer Michael Rosenfeld's plans to tear down the famous Century Plaza at 2025 Avenue Of The Stars and build two, 50-story hotel/condominium towers drew a range of reactions, but it's likely some Angelenos have never even set foot in this hotel. Well, here's how she's looking these days. A little musty in some parts, yes, and definitely aging. And preferable in style to both the AIG SunAmerica building next door and deathstar CAA building across the street? You decide. As supporters of this hotel have pointed out, the Century Plaza is really known for its political history, which is documented on the lower level "California" floor of the hotel-- there are two walls of photographs that pay homage to all the presidents that have stayed or visited the Century. After the jump, an explanation of why this hotel was so popular with politicians. Plus: Handy timeline.


Why so popular with politicians? Erika Garcia-Lavyne, director of public relations at the Hyatt Century Plaza, believes it's because the hotel, which has numerous egresses and regresses, allows for a great deal of security.

"It's always been a favorite of the FBI and hotel security forces," she says. "They know they can take a floor, secure it. Overall, the layout is very easy." There are many interesting security details, but notably, there used to be a second driveway that went into the building. It was used to drop off visiting dignitaries--they could drive up, literally walk three paces and be in the ballroom. [Photo of President Reagan and wife Nancy Reagan in that driveway in the gallery]. From Constellation Avenue, you can see where the entryway is closed up.

Every sitting president since Lyndon Johnson has visited the hotel. While both Clinton and George W. Bush have visited, they are the only two presidents since Johnson to have not spent a night at the hotel. Nowadays, it's rare for a president to spend a night at any hotel. "It's just a different atmosphere now," says Garcia-Lavyne. "Presidents will have a fundraiser or event at a hotel, but spend the night at a private residence."

TIMELINE

June 1, 1966
: Known as the"World's Most Beautiful Hotel,” the Century Plaza hotel opens at 2025 Avenue of the Stars. According to the Century City Chamber of Commerce's web site, the hotel was developed by Century City Inc., a subsidiary of Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). "A double room cost $30 a night at the 750-room hotel. Prince Philip was the first of many royal visitors."

August 13, 1969
: President Nixon hosts dinner for returning members of Apollo XI.

October 22, 1977
: President Jimmy Carter attends a “Presidential Ball” fundraising dinner. Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Gov. Jerry Brown are on hand.

December 27, 1984: The Century Plaza Hotel Tower, opens with President and Mrs. Reagan as the Tower’s first official guests, according to the Century City Chamber of Commerce's web site. Because of Regan's frequent stays, the hotel became known as the Western White House. (In gallery: Reagan giving a thumbs up upon hearing the news that he had beaten Walter Mondale in the November 1984 election.)

February 26, 1999
: Pivotal, an Phoenix-based investment group, purchases the Century Plaza Hotel and Tower for $260 million. (A this point, the hotel is currently managed by Westin Hotels & Resorts.) The press release about the sale indicates the group's plans to spin off the tower into a separate hotel (it'll eventually be the St. Regis).

November 2000: The St. Regis opens.

November 17, 2004: St. Regis Hotels & Resorts announces the sale of St. Regis Los Angeles. The buyer is New York's Related Cos who will raze the hotel and put up the Century, a condo project.

August, 2005: The Westin Century Plaza Hotel & Spa is sold to Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc for $293 million, reported the LA Times. It was then converted to a Hyatt.

June, 2008
: Next Century Associates pays $367 million for the hotel, buying it from Orange County-based Sunstone Hotel Investors.

November 5, 2008: Barack Obama victory party held at the Century Plaza

· How About Condos Instead of the Century Plaza Hotel? [Curbed LA]