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Edited Columbia Square Resurfaces, Heads to Public Hearings

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The Columbia Square project in Hollywood returns. Proposed for 6121 Sunset Boulevard, a block bounded by El Centro, Selma, and Gower, the Johnson Fain-designed development now has new owners, AREA Property Partners, which took over the project shortly before original owner Molasky Pacific filed for Chapter 11 protection last year. The final environmental impact report was recently released, and last week there was a public hearing on the project, which has undergone significant changes. Notably, the residential tower has dropped from 40 stories to 28 stories and the office tower has added three stories. Will there be a nasty catfight between locals and the developer over the project? Probably. According to AREA Property Partners' vice-president Jennifer Keith, seven people showed up at last week's hearing and it was mixed bag in terms of support for the project and worry about the development's height/traffic concerns. Indeed, looking at the Final EIR, there's this note: "In response to public input and community outreach that has occurred during the preparation of this Draft EIR, the Applicant has recognized that the community is concerned about height and traffic." Ya think?

The basic premise of the project is that it's being built around the historic CBS Studios site. You can see a shot of the block at the link above (as well as in photos below_, and in the renderings, you can see how the studios are incorporated into the design. The taller tower is the condo portion. It's now 200 units, instead of 400 unit, and 28 stories instead of 40 stories.

Additionally, there's a 7-story hotel-- that height hasn't changed. In the renderings, it's the short, squat building--almost like a Lego--in the foreground. Then there's the office tower. Originally, it was a 14-story office tower; it has now grown to 17 stories and the total office space has increased from 380,000 to 442,610 square feet.

According to the report, 105,510 square feet of the existing 136,233 square foot Columbia Square complex--it was built in 1938--will be retained and renovated. One of the office structures, which wasn't designed by architect William Lescaze, according to Keith, will be knocked down. This is Studio B/C (4th Wing), located on the northeast corner of the site.

Earlier this year, the complex was declared a Historic-Cultural Monument. Excerpt from the April 2009 Office of Historic Resources newsletter: "CBS Columbia Square Studios, HCM #947 (6121 Sunset Blvd.) Built in 1938 on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, this complex reflects the importance of radio and television broadcasting in Los Angeles and is characteristic of the International Style of architecture. Designed by William Lescaze, a renowned Modernist architect, the buildings are flat-roofed with smooth, unornamented concrete wall surfaces. Having served as the West Coast headquarters of CBS and as television and recording studios, the buildings have hosted a number of notable performers, from Jack Benny to Bing Crosby."

(Meanwhile, we're not sure how the new ordinance relating to knocking down Historical-Cultural monuments would play here, but something to possibly keep in mind.)

In terms of a schedule, there'll be more hearings going forward, and the project could heard before the Planning Commission (the first step towards approval) by February 2010, according to Keith.

But Keith also said that getting financing isn't a possibility at this point, so ground-breaking is a ways off.

"We have to get a construction loan, and the capital markets are such that it's impossible to get a loan," says Keith. Additionally, it would seem that AREA is anticipating neighborhood resistance to the project given that Keith--unprompted--raised the issue of litigation in terms of a ground-breaking. "Barring any lawsuits or litigation, we could break ground by the end of next year," she said. If they are sued, they will be in good company. Exhibit A: The Spaghetti Factory project. Exhibit B: Recent lawsuit threats over the Emerson project.

View from Selma Gower

View from Sunset

Columbia Square

6121 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA