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Heralding a New Beginning

Uneasy Revolution In the Industrial District

Style! Spin! Acrimony!

Heralding a New Beginning

Historic Newspaper Building and Two New Condo Towers by Thom Mayne to Include Nearly 600 Units

by Kathryn Maese

The storied Herald Examiner Building, shuttered since the Hearst-owned newspaper folded in 1989, is being turned into a residential and retail complex with two towers designed by award-winning architect Thom Mayne.

Devin Pailet, a project manager with Urban Partners, is part of the team that is working with the Hearst Corporation to revamp the 1914 Herald Examiner Building. Photo by Gary Leonard.

Developer Urban Partners, which is working in tandem with property owner the Hearst Corporation, said plans are underway to restore and convert the 1914 landmark on the southwest corner of 11th and Broadway into offices and condominiums. As part of the mixed-use development, two new towers would rise on adjacent land owned by Hearst. A 37-story structure will likely feature 330 for-sale units at 120 W. 12th St., while a 23-story building at 1108 S. Hill St. will include 235 condos.

"Almost every block on 11th Street is in some state of adaptive reuse or new construction," said Dan Rosenfeld, an Urban Partners principal. "Clearly the market is moving in product absorption and location in favor of taking the next steps."

The striking Mission-Revival structure with its yellow and blue tiled domes, imposing tower and dramatic arches has been used almost exclusively for filming in recent years. The Examiner was built by the state's first licensed female architect, Julia Morgan, whose work on the project convinced media baron William Randolph Hearst to commission her to design his San Simeon estate.

Noted preservation architect Brenda Levin, who helped refurbish City Hall, the Wiltern Theater and Grand Central Market, will oversee a painstaking rehab of the building. Rosenfeld said the property has been well kept by the Hearst group, who retained the original maintenance crew following the newspaper's closure.

Ken Bernstein, director of preservation issues at the Los Angeles Conservancy, said Levin's presence bodes well for the project, and also makes for an interesting parallel with Morgan's work.

"[Levin's] an outstanding choice to bring new life to the Herald Examiner," he said. "There's also the symbolism of having one of the premier women in architecture today giving new life to Julia Morgan's creation."

Though Rosenfeld would not detail specifics on the development, city documents reveal that early plans for the historic building itself include 24 residential units, 23,650 square feet of retail space, and 32,670 square feet of offices. Original features such as the ornate street front windows, covered in the 1950s, will be brought back.

Making a Statement

The primary structure spans 100,000 square feet and housed the paper's entire operations, including the printing presses, and two 36,000-square-foot floors, each with 20-foot high ceilings. The second story is covered by a skylight, while the first level contains a large, ornate lobby.

West of the Herald Examiner on the same block, Urban Partners is building a 23-story tower that will include 5,900 square feet of retail and 422 parking spaces. The two buildings would be linked via a 13,500-square-foot courtyard or plaza landscaped with trees. An alley on the south separates the project from the SBC Tower, long known as the Transamerica Tower.

A block to the southeast, the second high-rise will include more than 8,000 square feet of retail and 550 parking slots.

Mayne, who will design the two towers, is head of the Santa Monica firm Morphosis and won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize this year, following the opening of his California Department of Transportation's (Caltrans) District 7 headquarters at First and Main streets. Rosenfeld, whose firm developed Caltrans, said the new project will also make a statement.

"The design will be thought provoking, challenging and confident," he said. "It will be something that plays or appeals to a very discriminating niche in a design-conscious market."

Bernstein, who has seen the renderings and a scale model of the Herald Examiner project and the two new buildings, said Mayne's vision makes a "very strong, bold, new architectural statement."

"The Conservancy, as a historic preservation organization, does not typically engage in new architectural design review," he said. "While we're very supportive of the rehab, we have conveyed back to the project team that we want to reserve the right to comment further on the new project."

Hollywood-based Historic Resources Group has been hired to ensure the new design will not have a negative visual impact on the structure.

Rosenfeld said while the project will have a "21st century quality," it will still fit with Morgan's vision. He noted that the block, along with the SBC building, will showcase decades of design - Morgan's early 20th century vision, William Pereira's mid-century modern edifice for Transamerica, and now Mayne's early 21st century imprint.

Close to Demolition

As the reuse of old offices, hotels and banks into housing has swept up Downtown Los Angeles in recent years, speculation began to swirl around the empty Herald Examiner building. Hearst Corporation received numerous calls from investors interested in buying the property; it selected Urban Partners a few years ago to help develop a plan for the site.

But the building's path wasn't always so clear. Bernstein said there was an effort in the early 1990s to demolish the building. At the time, Downtown and the rest of the country were in the grip of economic recession and the adaptive reuse trend was still years away.

"Hearst Corporation had considered all kinds of options, and one was demolition," he said. "The Conservancy pursued a National Register of Historic Places nomination and it was formally determined eligible. Hearst opposed its listing. The Conservancy is very heartened that they have joined forces with Urban Partners to give it a second chance."

The Los Angeles Examiner, which opened in 1914 and later merged with the Los Angeles Herald, for a time claimed the largest afternoon newspaper circulation in the country. The paper was a dominant news source in Los Angeles for decades, and engaged in a fierce rivalry with the Los Angeles Times. Eventually a number of issues, among them labor strife and competition from evening television news, forced the paper to shut down.

A public meeting and unveiling of the conceptual rendering and model is set for Sept. 8 at the Central Library. An environmental impact report will be completed Sept. 16.

Contact Kathryn Maese at

page 1, 8/29/2005
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