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Freeway-facing balconies return to Downtown megadevelopment

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Citing health concerns, the city’s planning commission had recommended that balconies facing the freeway be unusable

View looking down on towers
Olympia would bring three skyscrapers with 879 condos and 1,000 hotel rooms to Downtown.
Courtesy City Century

Two elements of Downtown megadevelopment near LA Live that the planning commission had recommended be removed are now part of the plan again.

The developer of the Olympia project, City Century, successfully appealed both contested aspects of the project—digital signs and balconies facing the 110 Freeway—to the City Council’s planning and land use management committee on Tuesday.

The committee sided with the developer, voting to approve the project, which will have three skyscrapers as tall as 65 stories, and restore the features the developer wanted.

In February, the planning commission had asked that the project’s balconies immediately next to the 110 be inoperable, questioning whether pollution generated by cars zooming down the freeway would make them unhealthy to use. Commissioners had also asked the developer to eliminate two flashing digital signs that face the freeway amid safety concerns.

In its appeal, developer City Century said that complying with what it called the “subjective and arbitrary action” of the commission would pose serious hurdles. Eliminating the balconies next to the 110 would remove more than 5,000 square feet of residential open space.

Without those approximately 100 balconies, “redesigning the entire Olympia Project would be necessary to address aesthetic and performance concerns and to meet the Olympia project’s open space requirements,” the appeal said.

The developer also requested that its original signage plan, which included two large signs that face the freeway, be approved. The commission had recommended only one sign be allowed. But a representative for the developer, Francis Park, told the committee the signs are “critical to the financing of this project.”

The approvals still have to get the OK from the full City Council.

The Olympia project is designed by the Chicago-based architecture firm SOM with landscape architecture by SWA. When built, it will bring 879 condominiums, a 1,000-room hotel, and 40,000 square feet of commercial space across from the Regal LA Live Cinemas.

Its developer, City Century, is an American affiliate of the Shanghai-based developer Shenglong Group. The developer has a few other projects underway in LA, including a 40-story tower nearby at 12th and Grand, and a mixed-use complex in Koreatown.