In anticipation of Thursday’s big Planning Commission vote on the Wilshire Grand hotel and office project in downtown, the Planning Department has released a report recommending a drastic reduction in the amount of electronic signage proposed for the two buildings. While developer Thomas Properties/Hanjin is seeking to swath much of its AC Martin-designed project in LED advertising, the Planning Department’s report, released last week, recommends limiting digital signage to 150 feet or 13 stories. Additionally, the report recommends that virtually no signs face the freeway.
This sign proposal “is more appropriate for the context of the Financial District,” said City Planner Kevin Keller. (In the gallery above is a Curbed Photoshop approximation of what the developer is seeking and what the city is recommending, as well as non Photoshopped signs--those are the developer's renderings, done by Rios Clemente Hale Studios, which represent the electronic signage as butterflies and sea gulls.)
The Planning Commission can choose to adopt the Planning Department’s recommendations, or not. Ayahlushim Hammond, senior vice president of Thomas Properties Group, said her company was going through the Planning Dept's report “to see if it's workable or not.” She also added: “We like what we submitted.”
Even with the toned-down sign recommendation, the Planning Commission is faced with a difficult decision given that this new Financial District building is unprecedented in terms of digital signage. But it is also the first new office tower to rise in 20 years, and has the backing of City Councilwoman Jan Perry and the Downtown Neighborhood Council. Hammond said she believes the project and the signage works given the urban nature of downtown.
Less thrilled about the signage is project’s own architect. “No architect wants to see their building become a sandwich board,” Chris Martin, CEO/Co-Chairman/Principal at AC Marin, said in an interview last month. But he said he understands that in today’s competitive entitlement process, developers “have to ask for everything they can get,” be it signage rights or other requests.
Asked if the city's Planning Department considered recommending "no signs," Keller replied: "I think we evaluated all options."
Irregardless of the signs, is there a possible wrinkle to this project? Representing the nearby Wedbush Building at 1000 Wilshire, powerful lobbyist Benjamin Reznik filed a letter with the city over concerns about the proposed hotel and office’s use of the Francisco Street, where a partial vacation is planned. Reznick is worried about how the hotel's use of Francisco Street will impact the Wedbush tenants, who also use the street.“That needs to be look at at little closer,” Reznik told us last month.
As for actual digital signs on the Wilshire Grand, these are the recommendations by the Planning Department:
---A 3,000 square foot electronic display on 7th Street.
---A 900 square foot ticker-tape electronic sign on Francisco.
---A 2,000 square foot electronic display on Wilshire.
---A 1,200 square foot electronic sign on the corner of Figueroa and Wilshire.
---At least half of the area within the plaza would be covered in digital signage.
---The tower portion could have lights, but it would have to be “architectural lighting."
---The Planning Department isn't weighing in on whether to allow off-site or on-site signage. Off-site signage could mean Coke or Chanel or H & M ads; off-site could mean hotel convention ads, for instance (the developer could advertise anything that takes place at the hotel/office).
From the developer agreement with the city, just some of the community benefits of project:
----Thomas Properties/Hanjin will pay nearly $9 million for street improvements around 7th street.
----The developer will agree to fund part of feasible study for the freeway cap park over the 110 Freeway.* (Not 101 Freeway, as originally written).
----The project will create an estimated 7,000 on-site construction jobs and an additional 5,000 construction-related jobs.
----To obtain a new sign district for this project, Thomas Properties/Hanjin would remove existing billboards from other neighborhoods.
---*More on Photoshops: We studied the elevations of the buildings from the Planning Dept's case file for our approximations. The first image--of the plaza--for instance, is a representation of digital advertising that is OK in size by the Planning Dept. While the city still hasn't ruled whether off-site or on-site signs will be allowed, we have shown an approximation of what the off-site signs would look like. Additionally, included in the gallery are renderings submitted by the developer. The developer's renderings, done by Rios Clemente Hale Studios, represent the electronic signage as butterflies and sea gulls.
· Wilshire Grand [Curbed LA Archives]