LOS ANGELES (CN) – Officials in Los Angeles on Thursday recommended making the Art Deco former digs of the LA Times a cultural-historic landmark, putting a wrinkle into redevelopment plans by the building’s new owner.
The Times Mirror Square, a three-building complex in downtown LA, encompasses several decades of architectural periods with the first – an Art Deco building designed by famed architect Gordon Kaufman – built in 1935. The complex was sold by the Times’ previous Chicago-based owners and the newspaper moved to its new headquarters this summer.
Today, large construction cranes crowd the downtown skyline and speak of the rush to modernize the core. The site’s new owner, Canadian real estate developer Onni, plans to demolish a section of the complex to build a high rise and other parts of the block would be remodeled to house shops, restaurants and a grocery store, according to the LA Times report on the proposed development.
But with monument status, city officials can delay demolition for a time while the developer is presented with alternate uses for the site.
The application for monument status which the Cultural Heritage Commission reviewed was submitted by preservationists, including cultural historian Richard Schave. They described the site as an important part of the region’s history.
“The California we live in was based on the decisions made in these buildings,” Schave said.
City planners said in their report the site is considered historically relevant because of its connection to the Chandler family, the former owners of the Times. The family played a defining role in the newspaper’s history and influenced LA’s cultural landscape as philanthropists.
In their report, city staff highlighted the Kaufman building and another designed by architect Rowland Crawford, which has been described as a late Art Deco tower. But city planners downplayed a 1970s addition designed by architect William Pereira, because by that point in his career his style had switched from minimalism and to more expressive forms.
Architect Alan Hess joined preservationists in their bid to designate the site a cultural-historic landmark. He called Kaufman’s design forward-thinking for the era and said Pereira’s design seemed to show how by 1973, Los Angeles had become a global city.
While not against development in downtown, Hess said demolishing Pereira’s building “would sever Los Angeles from its history.”
Cultural Heritage commissioners agreed Pereira’s work could not be considered separate from the rest of the complex and said his name must be added to the landmark status. Pereira died in 1985, but at Thursday’s meeting his daughter Monica Pereira posed with a cover of Time magazine with her father on the cover.
“It’s nice to see him getting the recognition,” said Monica Pereira, who was in high school when her father’s contribution to the Times Mirror Square went up. “It just felt really good and it just makes you choke up. Because if you don’t follow architecture you’re not going to know who he was. But it’s my dad, it’s my own personal history.”
Commissioner Richard Barron said the whole site tells a story.
“I think it does tell a story of the city of Los Angeles,” said Barron. “It would be an error for the commission to not take the whole complex under consideration.”
Donna Tarzian worked at the LA Times building as a former vice president of brand marketing. She was involved with branding inside the building and became emotional while discussing the impact of her time with the newspaper.
“A brand is not just a product or service, it’s also a place,” said Tarzian. “It lives in the heart of the people that work there and the people that use the product.”
Omni did not respond to an email for comment.
The LA City Council must still sign off on the designation.