This year marks the 22nd annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has used this list as a powerful alarm to raise awareness of the serious threats facing the nation’s greatest treasures. It has become one of the most effective tools in the fight to save the country’s irreplaceable architectural, cultural and natural heritage. In the days leading up to and during the National Preservation Trust’s Nashville Conference, Nashville Past And Present will highlight the historic buildings, structures and places on this years most endangered list.
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.
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 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.
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.
The demolition of a 40-year-old, fully functioning building is not environmentally responsible. The developer propses tearing down a newly renovated, thriving hotel – a landmark of modern architecture – and replacing 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. Learn more about our Sustainability Initiative.