Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Wednesday Poll: To Save or Not to Save the Century Plaza Hotel?

Built in 1966, the Century Plaza Hotel doesn't have the same great history that the late Ambassador Hotel possessed. But it's nonetheless a prime example of mid-century architecture, and harkens back to the history of Century City -- which was carved out of old 20th Century Fox land after the studio (thanks to "Cleopatra") nearly went bankrupt.

As the L.A. Times notes, the L.A. Conservancy is gearing up for another rough fight to save the building from demolition. The new owners want to replace the hotel with two 50-story towers; that's understandably raising some ire:

Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, usually would remain in his home base in Washington, D.C., to trot out the group's annual list of America's 11 most endangered historic places.

But he journeyed cross-country to make this morning's announcement in Century City, right across the street from the Century Plaza hotel. The mid-century modern touchstone, which opened in 1966, made the list after its owner revealed plans in December to demolish the building and replace it with two 50-story towers.

"We wanted to call attention to this local landmark," Moe said at a news conference.

That, in turn, got developer New Century all bent out of shape. According to Curbed LA, the owner responded:

"We are disappointed to see the Century Plaza Hotel politicized in this way, particularly at a time when the City of Los Angeles is suffering from extreme economic hardship and is in dire need of new jobs. The naming of the hotel as an historic place is not supported by the facts. The building is less than 50 years old and does not qualify for consideration under stringent criteria for historic designation of a building of this recent age. [This fact is addressed in that LA Times story]. This is not considered one of the more significant Minoru Yamasaki buildings and is not characteristic of his style."

I sadly thought we had moved past that mentality, having learned from our mistakes. Too many buildings we demolished here in Los Angeles because they were young -- and deemed not historic enough. (Of course, those now-gone buildings would be revered for being historic today. Sigh.) These people sound like, well, spoiled brats.

But maybe I'm missing something here. Perhaps the Century Plaza really isn't anything special. I know I've sat through countless rubber chicken luncheons there. Yet the idea of tearing down a perfectly good building, especially one that does have some history -- is appalling to me.

What do you think? Vote below... as always, the results will come next Tuesday.

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