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Landmark effort for Times Mirror Square breezes through cultural heritage commission

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And architect William Pereira’s 1970s addition gets some love

Times Mirror Square
Times Mirror Square in Downtown.
Underawesternsky | Shutterstock

An attempt to landmark the Downtown LA complex that housed the Los Angeles Times for decades cleared a significant hurdle Thursday, when Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously recommended the site for city monument status.

The designation would include the two oldest buildings on the Times Mirror Square property—a 1935 structure by Gordon B. Kaufmann, architect of the Hoover Dam, and a 1948 addition designed by Roland Crawford—and a 1970s-era addition by William Pereira.

Right now, the owner of Times Mirror Square, Canadian-based developer Onni, has plans to demolish the Pereira building in order to build a pair of glassy residential towers with over 1,100 units. (No major alterations, including demolition, can happen while the landmark application is under consideration.)

The Pereira building’s architectural and historic value were on trial at the hearing. Of all the buildings at Times Mirror Square, it’s the least beloved.

Described as “corporate International style” or “corporate modern” by speakers at the commission meeting, its hard angles and brown glass exterior can seem unattractive when compared to the Art Deco and Moderne charms of the 1930s and ’40s structures that share the site.

But preservationists at Esotouric and architectural historian Alan Hess have argued that the building represents an important period in the history of the Times and of the city.

Pereira did not intend for his addition to the Times complex to be a standalone monument, says Hess. Instead he wanted to “respond to the older buildings and urban context in appropriate way.”

But architectural consultants hired by Onni said they disagree with a report from the planning department that asserts the whole block is historically significant.

Teresa Grimes, principal architectural historian at GPA Consulting, said the Pereira building was an “average example” of a common architectural style of the era.

Grimes also questioned whether Pereira himself was actually involved in designing the building, saying the records her team found confirmed the structure was the work of his firm, William L. Pereira & Associates, but the name of the exact designer was unclear.

Commissioners, however, supported the idea that the whole complex of Times Mirror Square was important to preserve and that all of the buildings were vital parts of that complex.

“I think it’s interesting we’re focusing on William Pereiera,” said commissioner Diane Kanner. “What people knew was Times Mirror Square,” not the individual buildings, she said.

“William Pereira is getting a lot of great publicity on this, but to me there’s no question that the whole block is worthy” of landmark status, said Kanner.

The commissioners voted unanimously to add Pereira’s name to the planning department’s report, which had previously said that the site was “a significant work of master architects” Kaufman and Crawford, but had excluded Pereira.

It’s unclear what effect, if any, the addition of Pereira’s name to the report’s conclusions will have in protecting his building, since city staffers had already recommended the entire block for landmark status.

If approved, landmarking could complicate Onni’s plans to redevelop the site as a mixed-use campus. The designation would mean that any alterations planned for the property, including razing part of it, would need to be vetted by the cultural heritage commission.

The commission could delay demolition for up to a year, in order to allow for preservation options to emerge.

The designation heads next to the planning and land use management committee. It also needs the approval of the full City Council.