The Case For Preserving All Of The LA Times' Former HQ

The L.A. Times building in downtown L.A. (credit: Chris Eason/Flickr Creative Commons)

When the Los Angeles Times left its historic downtown home this summer, it looked like its longtime headquarters would soon be turned into swanky high-rise apartments and office space. For those unfamiliar: The block known as Times Mirror Square is a patchwork of buildings, connected inside through a maze of corridors and stairways.

Plans by the Canadian-based developer Onni — who bought the complex two years ago for $430 million —have always called for the oldest structures to be preserved. But building new gleaming high-rise towers along South Broadway would require demolishing later additions.

Now, new support from city officials may help preserve all existing buildings, raising questions about the fate of the project.

The city's Office of Historic Resources put its support this week behind a nomination for historic cultural monument status of all five structures. Former surgeon/biomedical entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the paper earlier this year, moving the newsroom to El Segundo in July and avoiding hefty penalties on the lease of the building once owned by the journalism enterprise.

The structures up for monument status were built over decades, from 1935 to 1973, and have a mix of architecture reflecting the style of the city.

Ken Bernstein, principal city planner and manager at L.A.'s Office of Historic Resources, called the buildings "excellent examples of Streamline Moderne, as well as the Late Moderne architectural style."

Bernstein told KPCC's Take Two that the architectural style played a role in meeting criteria for monument status, as did the building's association with the prominent Chandler family who once owned the L.A. Times and were heavily involved in the development of Los Angeles. Harry Chandler, the Times' second publisher, spearheaded the construction of the Art Deco building that opened at the corner of 1st and S. Spring Street in 1935. It was the fourth home for the newspaper, which first published in 1881.

Gordon B. Kaufmann designed this building, which opened in 1935. The Los Angeles Times Building extension (right, seen here in 1979), designed by William Pereira, was completed in 1972. (Photo courtesy LAPL archive)

"It's been said that the Chandler family didn't just shape Los Angeles, it literally invented Los Angeles," Bernstein said.

Commission members also considered the structures' connections to prominent architects Gordon Kaufmann and Rowland Crawford, who developed the buildings in the 1930s and '40s.

But a few more steps need to happen before the buildings would be protected.

L.A.'s Cultural Heritage Commission meets Sept. 20 to discuss the structures' monument status, and whether the application should go to the city's Planning and Land Use committee. If all that pans out, the City Council could then put it to a vote.

UPDATES:

Sept. 15, 1:15 p.m. This article was updated with additional information about the developer's plans current for the property, which include preservation of the oldest buildings


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