The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously voted Thursday to consider landmarking Downtown's Times Mirror Square complex, including a 1970s addition set to be replaced by a pair of tall residential towers.
The building cannot be torn down while the city considers the landmark application, submitted earlier this month by a group of preservationists led by Esotouric.
Canadian developer Onni Group purchased Times Mirror Square in 2016 and plans to preserve the oldest buildings at the site, a 1935 structure by Hoover Dam architect Gordon Kaufman and a 1948 addition designed by Roland Crawford. A parking garage and a glassy wing of offices added to the complex in 1973, however, would be torn down to make way for the enormous new project.
For decades, all three buildings housed staffers at the Los Angeles Times, but the paper moves out at the end of the week—into new offices in El Segundo. Preservationists say the paper’s legacy at the site should be honored by keeping the complex intact.
Former Times managing editor Leo Wolinsky told the commission Thursday that the paper played a key role in the city’s development during its time in the complex. Quoting David Halberstam, he said that the Chandler family, which oversaw the paper for seven decades, “did not so much foster the growth of Los Angeles as invent it.”
As city officials consider the landmarking application, a key question will be how much of the complex is worthy of preservation.
The 1970s addition was designed by influential modern architect William Pereira, whose work is quickly disappearing from the city’s landscape.
It’s not one of Pereira's most popular projects. Runner-up in our ugliest building contest in 2007, the corporate modern building stands in stark contrast to the older Art Deco structure that it abuts.
“The Pereira building would not be allowed to be built today,” Josh Albrektson told the commission. After the meeting he described it as a "cancerous growth" on the original Times building.
Albrektson, a pro-development activist, has been organizing resistance to the landmarking application in the DTLA Development Facebook group.
He was joined Thursday by Downtown resident Whitman Lam, who called Pereira's contribution to Times Mirror Square "uninviting" and "irrelevant."Pereira’s work at Times Mirror Square “uninviting” and “irrelevant.”
They say that Onni’s plans to build more than 1,100 apartments where the Pereira building now stands would put the site to better use.
But critics of the building were outnumbered at the meeting by those who argued for its preservation, including Pereira’s daughter, Monica.
“Times Mirror Square tells the story of an evolving city,” she told the commission, arguing that the modern addition represented an important period in the paper’s growth.
If the entire complex eventually receives landmark status, the Pereira structure could still be torn down. City officials, however, could delay demolition for up to a year to allow for opportunities for preservation to emerge.
Architect Alan Hess, who assisted with the landmarking application, told Curbed earlier this month that he suspects the Pereira building could be incorporated into a residential project like the one that Onni is considering.
Hess told the commission Thursday that the low-slung 1970s structure represented an early example of architecture that respects, rather than overwhelms, historic buildings nearby. Though, Hess acknowledged, “it’s not exactly the way we do it today.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified architect Alan Hess as Richard Hess.
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