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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Santa Monica Blvd (Part VI: Century City and the Century Plaza Hotel)

Century City is a large office, retail, and residential complex located on the westside of Los Angeles, immediately adjacent to Beverly Hills. It occupies the former backlot of the 20th Century Fox Studios, and was developed in the mid 1960's. A large, outdoor shopping center (managed by the "Westfield Corporation") occupies the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Century Park West.

My dad had an office in the Century Park West building located at 1801 Avenue of the Stars. It was the first office building in Century City and was built in 1963. It now sports a large, red (and, in my opinion very unattractive) "Westfield" logo.

Much of the outdoor scenes were filmed here in the less than memorable 1972 film "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes" - with the apes burning down my dad's office building in the final scenes. As a kid, I thought it was pretty a cool special effect.

Across Santa Monica Blvd, in what's technically "Westwood," is a small office building with a 1969 Statue of Liberty mural. Apparently, the owner of several Los Angeles office buildings is pushing the envelope in terms of wrapping his buildings with murals, and eventually commercial billboards. Here's a link to a previous post on this.
 The Statue of Liberty mural looks "OK" ... but few of us want to see buildings wrapped in ads.

My six mile walk, which started at Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica at 5:45am, ended here at the Century Plaza Hotel.

The Century Plaza opened in 1966 and at one time was the premier five-star hotel in Los Angeles. Presidents and world leaders and celebrities have stayed here, and it was the location for the State Dinner honoring the Apollo 11 astronauts. Here's some additional information from our friends at wikipedia:

It's still a beautiful hotel, but perhaps no longer the world famous destination, or five star resort, it once was.

Apparently, Michael Rosenfeld, the local investor who owns the Century Plaza wants to tear down the building, and replace it with two fifty-story, state of the art buildings. (Sounds like the backstory of the recent Adam Sandler film "Bedtime Stories").

Sam Watters of the Los Angeles Times wrote a passionate article about the historic importance of the Century Plaza, and why the City should move to prevent it's demolition,0,4004631.story

On one hand, the Century Plaza is a landmark and an vital part of our City's history. It was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki and is one of the finest examples of "mid-century" architecture in the City. And it remains a beautiful, classy (although, yes, somewhat dated) building.

On the other hand, don't the owners have the right to bring their property (and Century City) into the 21st Century? To bring the Century Plaza - back to a world class, five star resort?

Of course, both sides are playing the "environmentalist" card. The developers are touting how much more energy efficient a new hotel will be. The preservationists are countering that it will take over fifty years of energy savings to make up for the amount of energy it will take to both demolish the older building, and build a new one.

Speaking of fifty years, I wonder what Angelenos in 2059 will think of the Century Plaza, or whatever takes it's place? As a Christian, I often what kind of legacy - spiritually, physically, morally, culturally - we're leaving for our great grand-children. Those who, God-willing, will be here 50-100 years from now. What the pslamist called "a people not yet created" (Psalm 102:18).

In that sense, tearing down the Century Plaza, for something "bigger and better" seems veryshort sighted.

Especially if we get something like this. Across the street from the Century Plaza Hotel is the new "2000 Avenue of the Stars" building, occupying the site of the former ABC Entertainment Center. The building is affectionately (or not so affectionately) known as the Death Star.

Walking back to Santa Monica Blvd along Avenue of the Stars I passed the Century Park East building. The grassy setbacks provide space between the buildings, as well as the street. On the other hand, they seem to remove pedestrian traffic from the streets. Ironically, you'll see many more people "out and about" in lower density Santa Monica than you will in Century City.

I caught the 704 MTA "Rapid" back to Santa Monica. These buses really move. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's actually true. Not only do they only stop every mile or so, but they each bus is equipped with special transmittal devices that cause traffic signals to favor the bus, with green lights held longer and red lights shortened. Really worked - we made great time back to Santa Monica.

A last look at Century City. There's a red "Metro Rapid" heading east towards Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Blvd.

Click on the above map for a larger view.

Nice walk. I'd like to take anther stab at Santa Monica Blvd, aka "California State Highway 2," aka "Historic Route 66," into Beverly Hills and on to Hollywood sometime in the future.



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