Tuesday, April 28, 2009

L.A. Home to 1 of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in America for 2009

From the National Historic Trust...

National Trust for Historic Preservation Names Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles to its 2009 List of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Media Contact: Communications & Marketing, 202.588.6141, pr@nthp.org

Washington, D.C. (April 28, 2009) - Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles to its 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places®. This annual list highlights important examples of the nation's architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

This year's national announcement of the list was made adjacent to the Century Plaza Hotel to both highlight the threat to modernist architecture nationally and to focus attention on sustainability and the need to recycle existing infrastructure, rather than throw it away. Opened in 1966 as the centerpiece of Century City, the 19-story curved hotel has been a prominent Los Angeles landmark for more than four decades. From its prime perch fronting the spectacular fountains on the Avenue of the Stars, the Century Plaza's sweeping modern design strongly evokes the exuberant optimism of the 1960s. Designed by renowned architect Minoru Yamasaki, who would later design New York's World Trade Center twin towers, the hotel incorporates Yamasaki's ornamental, textural and sculptural trademarks. Yamasaki also designed the 1975 twin Century Plaza towers, the striking triangular buildings east of the hotel.
Currently operating as a Hyatt Regency, the hotel was purchased by Next Century Associates in May of 2008. The new owner promptly called the hotel "a jewel in my hometown" - but less than six months later, the same owner announced plans to raze the building and replace it with two 600-foot towers, which would house a boutique hotel, luxury condominiums and mixed-use space.

The handsome, elegant hotel is in excellent condition and was the beneficiary of a $36 million facelift just over a year ago. The meeting and conference areas have also been renovated and remain among the largest and most desirable convention spaces in the city. The hotel's owners claim their development plan is "part of the greening of Century City," touting the fact that the new construction will be designed with green roofs and environmentally sensitive building materials.

"How is the demolition of a 40-year-old, fully functioning building environmentally responsible?" asked Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "In a state known for its environmental stewardship and strong focus on sustainable development, it boggles the imagination to think a developer could propose tearing down a newly renovated, thriving hotel - a landmark of modern architecture - and replace it with new construction. Because historic preservation inherently involves the conservation of energy and natural resources, it has always been the greenest form of development."

According to the National Trust, the energy embodied in the 800,000-square-foot Century Plaza Hotel is the equivalent of 167,000 barrels of oil, a statistic that takes into account the amount of energy used in the construction of the building. If the structure were to be demolished and landfilled, the energy locked up in it would be totally wasted. What's more, the process of demolition would use more energy, and the construction of a new building on the Century Plaza site would require even more.

The Los Angeles Conservancy, founded in 1978 to preserve architectural resources, is leading the charge to save the hotel. Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton, a former board member of the Conservancy and a current trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, participated in the news conference in Los Angeles to announce the 11 Most Endangered listing.

"All over Los Angeles, too many of our great modern buildings have already fallen to the wrecking ball," said Keaton. "We need to lead by example and show the rest of the country that buildings are renewable, and we shouldn't be throwing them away. We should be recycling them just like we recycle newspapers."

The hotel, which fueled the development of Century City and forged its reputation as a world-class destination, has been a gathering place for celebrities, politicians and world dignitaries since its opening day. Once nicknamed the "West Coast White House," the Century Plaza was a favorite of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Nixon hosted a celebration for the Apollo 11 astronauts here, while Reagan presided over two presidential victory celebrations in the hotel's vast ballroom and conducted much of his business in the hotel's Presidential Suite while in California.

The 2009 list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places was made possible, in part, by a grant from HistoryTM. Local preservation groups across the nation submitted nominations for this year's list; the nomination for Century Plaza Hotel was submitted by the Los Angeles Conservancy.

The public is invited to learn more about what they can do to support these and hundreds of other endangered sites, experience first-hand accounts of these places, and share stories and photos of their own at www.PreservationNation.org/11Most.
To download high resolution images and video of this year's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, visit http://press.nationaltrust.org/

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