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Threatened Century Plaza Hotel Gets Huge Boost from Preservationists

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A move that might derail developer Michael Rosenfeld's plans to tear down the Century Plaza Hotel and build hotel/condo towers on the site, today the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the Minoru Yamasaki-designed hotel at 2025 Avenue of the Stars on its 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The designation of the 1966 mid-century modern hotel is hugely notable: Of the 211 endangered places announced by the Washington-based National Trust for Historic Preservation over the last 22 years, only 6 of the sites have been destroyed.

(Looking over all the sites listed, the places run the gamut from the Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Florida to Governor's Island in New York.) This morning, the 11 list will be announced by actress Diane Keaton, a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, located directly across from the hotel. And here's what Keaton, who famously helped lead the failed battle to save the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire, had to say about the Century Plaza. “All over Los Angeles, too many of our great modern buildings have already fallen to the wrecking ball," said Keaton in a statement. "We need to lead by example and show the rest of the country that buildings are renewable, and we shouldn't be throwing them away. We should be recycling them just like we recycle newspapers.” Meanwhile, developer Rosenfeld takes issue issue with the designation. Among other things, he tells the Los Angeles Times that his design for the hotel would make the site "less car-centric and more pedestrian-friendly" and ultimately greener. National Trust President Richard Moe cries foul on the Rosenfeld "green" remark, noting there's nothing green about demolishing the hotel. This is going to be a big story, people!

From the press release: The 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in alphabetical order):

Ames Shovel Shops, Easton, Mass.— In southeastern Massachusetts, the Ames Shovel Shops complex, an intact 19th-century industrial village that resembles a picture-perfect New England college campus, is threatened by a plan to demolish several of the site’s historic buildings and radically alter others to pave the way for new mixed-use development.

Cast-Iron Architecture of Galveston, Texas— The assemblage of late-19th-century Greek Revival and Italianate buildings with elaborate cast-iron storefronts in Galveston’s 12-block Strand/Mechanic National Historic Landmark District is one of the largest collections of historic commercial buildings in the country. Unfortunately, the widespread flooding caused by Hurricane Ike in September 2008 caused extensive damage, leaving the district fighting to survive.

Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif.— Opened in 1966, the 19-story curved hotel, designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, who would later design New York's World Trade Center twin towers, has been a prominent Los Angeles landmark for more than four decades. Despite a $36 million facelift just over a year ago, the hotel’s new owners now intend to raze the building and replace it with two 600-foot, “environmentally sensitive” towers.

Dorchester Academy, Midway, Ga.— Founded in 1868 as a school for freed slaves, Dorchester Academy started humbly in a one-room schoolhouse and later gained prominence as a center for voter registration drives during the civil rights movement. The academy’s last remaining building, a handsome 1934 Greek Revival dormitory, is deteriorating and structurally compromised.

Human Services Center, Yankton, S.D.— Founded in 1879 as the South Dakota Hospital for the Insane and once regarded as a model institution of its kind, this campus comprises a collection of neoclassical, Art Deco and Italianate buildings that have stood vacant for years. Despite the site’s potential for innovative reuse and appropriate redevelopment, the State is moving forward with plans to demolish 11 historic buildings on the Yankton campus.

L?na‘i City, Hawai‘i— One of Hawaii’s eight main islands, L?na‘i, known as the “Pineapple Isle,” has lush tropical beaches, breathtaking natural beauty, lavish resorts and one attraction none of the other islands can claim: an intact plantation town. L?na‘i City, built by pineapple baron James Dole in the 1920s, features plantation-style homes, a laundromat, jail, courthouse and police station, and is now threatened by a large-scale commercial development calling for the destruction or significant alteration of 15-20 historic buildings.

The Manhattan Project’s Enola Gay Hangar, Wendover Airfield, Utah— The hangar that housed the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world’s first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, is, along with other Manhattan Project sites, in a critical state of disrepair.

Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth, N.H. to Kittery, Maine— For more than 85 years, Memorial Bridge, the first major lift bridge in the eastern US, has been a sturdy and dramatic landmark, spanning the Piscataqua River and connecting two coastal towns steeped in history. But like so many others in the nation, the bridge has suffered from tight budgets and postponed maintenance. The states of Maine and New Hampshire have not yet agreed on a plan to save Memorial Bridge and are now considering their options, including its removal – a move that would be costly and in direct opposition to the desires of local residents in two communities.

Miami Marine Stadium, Virginia Key, Fla.— Completed in 1963, Miami Marine Stadium is both a South Florida landmark and an icon of modern design. Built entirely of poured concrete and featuring a dramatically cantilevered folded-plate roof, the stadium is a sentimental favorite of many Miami residents. After sustaining damage during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the stadium, a prime target for developers, closed and has since suffered from years of deterioration, vandalism and neglect.

Mount Taylor, near Grants, N.M.— Located in the southwestern corner of New Mexico’s San Mateo Mountains, midway between Albuquerque and Gallup, Mount Taylor, with an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet, is startlingly beautiful and a sacred place for as many as 30 Native American tribes. Currently, the mountain is under threat from exploration and proposals for uranium mining, which, if allowed to proceed, would have a devastating impact on this cherished historic place.

Unity Temple, Oak Park, Ill.— Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, designed for a Unitarian congregation in Oak Park, is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture. Completed in 1908, the cubist, flat-roofed structure is also one of the earliest public buildings to feature exposed concrete, one of Wright’s signature design elements. Years of water infiltration have compromised the structure, prompting a multi-million-dollar rescue effort that the current congregation cannot afford.

And the six that were destroyed:

Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis

Mapes Hotel in Reno, Nevada

Madison Lennox Hotel in Detroit

The Eastside School in Iowa

Two Columbus Circle in NYC

Pompey’s Pillar in Montana

And here's the whole list of 211.

According to Virgil McDill, communications manager at the National Historic Trust, it’s not a matter of simply listing the site and then moving on. “We stay involved, we do action steps, and we work with the regional office,” he says. In the case of Los Angeles, the regional office for the National Historic Trust is in San Francisco.

· Getting to Know You: Threatened Century Plaza [Curbed LA]
· America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
· How About Condos Instead of the Century Plaza Hotel? [Curbed LA]

Century Plaza Hotel

2025 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067 Visit Website