Nearly ten years after it was boarded up -- due to an electrical fire that made the building unihabitable -- one of L.A.'s first skyscrapers is finally about to re-open.
We first wrote about the Sunset-Vine Tower in 2003, as part of our round up of L.A.'s Ghost Towers, and have continued to follow its slow resurrection through the years.
Built in 1963. it's believed to be the first skyscraper built in the city after Los Angeles repealed its 14-story building height limits. The Sunset-Vine is best known as the collapsing skyscraper in the cheesy 1974 disaster flick "Earthquake" -- of its protective cover, and was also the secret home to the transmitter for legendary pirate radio station KBLT. I remember it most as home to the restaurant/bar 360, where I used to enjoy taking in the views while sipping on some girly drink.
Then came Dec. 6, 2001, when a fire in the electrical room made the building unsafe. Spanish-lingo radio station KWKW and sister KIRN (an Iran-focused radio outlet), were based in the tower and forced off air the day of the fire.
Here's the update from the L.A. Times' Bob Pool:
In 2003, the CIM Group, a commercial developer, acquired the padlocked skyscraper and began mapping plans to rehabilitate it. The company eventually decided to gut the building and convert it into residential units.
Workers dismantling rooftop equipment with a cutting torch accidentally set the tower on fire in 2005. Because the elevators were still out of service, firefighters had to carry hundred-pound loads of hose and gear up stairwells to fight the flames. Later, they had to undergo decontamination because of asbestos exposure.
Locals began calling the tower "the condom" after work crews wrapped it in a plastic shroud as they removed asbestos from its interior and untempered exterior glass panels from its sides.
When high winds ripped away part of the plastic and blew through the now skeletonized tower in early 2007 neighbors worried that asbestos particles might be raining down on them. But the carcinogenic fireproofing material had been completely removed three months earlier.
This week, officials with CIM Group described the quartet of nine-story vertical billboards as a necessary financial component of their $70-million investment in the tower. Along with residential rents that will range from $2,500 to $10,000 a month (the penthouse will go for $25,000 a month), three restaurants and a wine bar have leased space on the ground level.
Ryan Harter, CIM Group's vice president, said the iconic tower -- which was depicted as falling apart in the 1974 disaster movie "Earthquake" -- now has a state-of-the-art fire sprinkler system, a 30,000-gallon emergency water tank and a generator that will keep the elevators running during any future power failure.
The apartment units feature double-pane, floor-to-ceiling windows and loft-like 14-foot ceilings. Stephen Kanner, the Santa Monica architect who was in charge of the redevelopment project, said the residences were designed so that the exterior billboards would not spoil any views.
The building, under renovation, in 2007.
The original Sunset-Vine Tower look. (Flickr pic by Friday in LA.)