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1960s hotel in L.A. endangered

By: Rick Benedict//April 28, 2009//

1960s hotel in L.A. endangered

By: Rick Benedict//April 28, 2009//

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Jacob Adelman
AP Writer

Los Angeles (AP) — The Century Plaza Hotel hosted President-elect Ronald Reagan’s victory celebration, a welcome home gala for the Apollo 11 astronauts and Bob Hope’s celebrity-studded Century Ball.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation sees that history and the hotel’s mid-century architecture as reasons to stop the wrecking ball. The group names the hotel on its annual list being released Tuesday of historic places it considers endangered by neglect or development.

Also listed are the Utah hangar that housed the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan; the Hawaiian town of Lanai City featuring plantation-style homes built by 1920s pineapple baron James Dole; and Miami Marine Stadium, which along with the Century Plaza is an example of 1960s modernist architecture that preservationists say is increasingly under threat of redevelopment.

It’s hard for a generation that has grown up with such architecture to recognize it as historically significant, said Richard Moe, director of the trust.

“The problem is we’re losing most of the best examples before they become historic,” Moe said.

The Century Plaza Hotel was built at the core of Century City, a high-rise district in Los Angeles on the former site of a 20th Century Fox movie lot. The hotel, which opened in 1966, was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, whose later work included the World Trade Center towers.

The 19-story hotel has been a popular place to stay for Washington politicos, earning it the nickname “West Coast White House.”

Actress Diane Keaton, a trustee of the preservation group, said the hotel is worth saving.

“It’s curvy, it’s this beautiful kind of crescent shape,” she said. “It’s a sexy building.”

A $36 million facelift was completed in 2008, months before it was bought by a partnership led by investor Michael Rosenfeld.

In December, the group announced a $2 billion plan to replace the metal and glass structure with two sleek skyscrapers containing condos and shops.

Rosenfeld has said the project will attract full-time residents to a pedestrian-friendly environment in what has been a notoriously sterile corner of the city. Developers also say the new structure will cut energy use.
Preservationists reject those arguments.

“Find a vacant lot instead of tearing down this mass of steel and concrete,” Keaton said. “You won’t be using up all that energy tearing down a building.”

Other sites on the list are in less urban areas.

The Enola Gay hangar sits on a remote airfield near the Utah-Nevada border. The trust said the hangar is in a critical state of disrepair, along with other sites connected to the World War II-era Manhattan Project effort to develop nuclear weapons.

In Hawaii, the intact, early-20th century plantation town Lanai City is being threatened by a commercial development the trust says would destroy or deface as many as 20 of its historically significant homes, municipal buildings and shops.

Miami Marine Stadium was closed after sustaining damage during Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and has since suffered from vandalism and neglect, the trust said.

The preservation group hopes people will seek to have all the sites protected as historic monuments, Moe said.

Only six of the 211 sites added to the list since 1988 have been lost, he said.

“They’re all part of our national heritage,” Moe said. “If we lose any of them, they’re gone forever.”


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