All those parking lots and empty sites in South Park weren't always no-man's lands. The surface lot at Grand and Pico, where a seven-story mixed-user is now planned, was once a charming apartment house built in 1924. It was named the Ponet Square Hotel, for its owner and developer, Belgian immigrant Victor Ponet, according to urbandiachrony. Designed by AL Haley, the four-story mixed-user curved in its middle to match the twisty route of Grand Avenue and had 60 rooms and a ballroom in the basement, "making it one of the city's largest residential structures."
As cute as it once was, the Ponet Square deteriorated as urban decay took hold of Downtown in the mid-twentieth century. Worse, the Ponet was long seen as dangerous, with a 1945 Herald-Examiner article calling it a "deathtrap" and declaring, "If a fire occurs, the place will become a holocaust." That ominous warning came to fruition in September 1970, when a deranged 44-year-old man set fire to the Ponet. The blaze injured dozens, claimed 19 lives, and become one of the city's deadliest fires. A hollowed-out shell after the fire, the hotel was torn down shortly after the tragedy. One positive to come from the horrible fire at the Ponet, which lacked any fire alarms, was an ordinance requiring all pre-1943 buildings to adhere to modern safety codes.
· The Ponet Square Hotel, northwest corner of Pico Boulevard and Grand Avenue, 1924-2013 [urban diachrony]
· First Look at the 7-Story Mixed-User Headed for Grand/Pico [Curbed LA]