January was a suspenseful month for fans of the 1957 Norms diner on La Cienega. A demolition permit was issued for the building in mid-January, and the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission quickly stepped in to save the building—there's a temporary hold on any demolition while they consider whether to landmark the Googie-style building. Meanwhile, Curbed reported that the land sold late last year to a prolific West Hollywood developer named Jason Illoulian—separately from the chain of Norms restaurants, which also sold last year—and that he had plans to build some kind of mixed-use development on the site. After the outcry, he had decided to incorporate the Norms building into his new plans, to be designed by local architects Hodgetts + Fung, but now he reveals to Los Angeles magazine that the Norms restaurant inside might not be so lucky.
Illoulian claims he loves the Norms shell, designed by Googie masters Armet & Davis ("and that sign is just like fucking awesome"), but as the neighborhood fancifies, there's less and less demand for an eatery like Norms, though he does say that he hopes to keep the spot a 24-hour diner, whether it's Norms or "someone else." That doesn't mean that there won't be big changes coming to the parcel. The parking lot of the Norms is a goner; Illoulian wants to build a "community of shops" on it—he's shooting for something high-end, like the Brentwood Country Mart or Abbot Kinney-type retail. "We want it to feel authentic," Illoulian says without indicating what they want it to feel authentic to.
Working with Hodgetts + Fung, the current plan in the pipeline (but not yet final) is a two-story complex on the parking lot, with parking underground, and a terrace. Present plans also call for a newly constructed "background building" that's intended to frame the fantastic Google structure.
Surprisingly, H + F principal Craig Hodgetts, normally a preservationist, says he feels that the Norms is not "appropriate" for La Cienega; he believes that most of the people who want to save Norms are more concerned about the building than they are about the restaurant inside it. "They've never been there but it's cool on some aesthetic scale. Call it the Mad Men syndrome."
Illoulian's busy in the area, working on a five-story mixed-use building on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard in western Hollywood that includes the home of Meltdown Comics and a five-story multi-use building in WeHo's design district. He's also co-developing the retail and hotel project that's set to rise on the site of the Factory nightclub in West Hollywood. In the end, Illoulian says, with the whole Norms site, he's just trying to "do the right thing," and to "build cool shit that people will want."
· Exclusive: The New Owner of Norms Reveals His Plans For the Legendary Site [LA Magazine]
· Who Wants to Demolish the Famous La Cienega Norms? [Curbed LA]