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Koreatown development that will preserve 1920s Art Deco garage ‘hits it out of the park’

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The design won rave reviews from city commissioners

Pellissier Square Garage as it looks today.
Via Google Maps

The Planning Commission has endorsed plans to erect a hotel, apartments, and shops and restaurants around a 1920s-era Art Deco garage at Western Avenue and Eighth Street in Koreatown.

Commissioners were enthusiastic about the architecture and backed the plans for 800 South Western Avenue in a 6-2 vote last week, with commissioner Dana Perlman calling it a “really good looking project.”

“I look at a lot of the projects coming before us today, and I wish some of them would consult with this architect,” Perlman said. “They hit it out of the park.”

Architect Eric Olsen says his firm, TCA Architects, set out to design a “cosmopolitan” and “exciting mixed use project … that is reminiscent of the [neighborhood’s] culture.”

The plans from developer Western Plaza Capital Holding, LLC call for two new buildings, one that rises to 12 stories and the other to three stories. At the “heart” of the development, Olsen says, is an old, four-story Art Deco building distinguished by its pilasters, zigzags, and chevrons.

Pellissier Square Garage, photographed in 1931.
Pellissier Square Garage, photographed in 1931.
USC Digital Library

It was once used as a parking garage and service station, but it’s known today as IB Plaza, and it still houses parking spaces, plus about a half-dozen Korean businesses, including a massage parlor and a restaurant.

Designed by Morgan, Walls, and Clements, it was built at a time when “Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue were one of the busiest intersections in the world,” according to a report on the property’s history prepared for the developer.

The structure was called the Pellissier Square Garage, named after the woman who commissioned it, Marie Julie Pellissier. She and her husband, Germaine Pellissier, were major landowners and developers in the Wilshire area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The garage will be flanked by two new buildings.
Via city planning department

After his death in 1908, she commissioned the garage—and the iconic Wiltern Theater. (According to the LA Weekly, it was Marie Julie Pellissier who chose the theater’s “distinctive blue-green glazed terra-cotta tile ... as a reminder of the green pastures that previously covered the land.”)

Plans and renderings show the former garage will be preserved as a retail center with “a new paint finish.” The new buildings will house 148 hotel rooms and 96 apartments, at least four of which will be affordable for low-income tenants.

The Planning Commission’s vote serves as a recommendation to the City Council, which will have the final say on the project. In backing the project, commissioners recommended the City Council require the developer to double the number of affordable units.

“Four [affordable] units at this lovely project is insufficient,” said commission president David Ambroz. (Perlman ultimately cast one of the two dissenting votes, because he opposed increasing the amount of affordable housing).