By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
It has been ten years in the design, with three different proposals offered, but the West Hollywood Planning Commission approved the plans for WeHo’s Westside Gateway, the Melrose Triangle, last week.
The game, however, is not over. Preservationists have discovered that, lurking behind the behind overgrown trees so thick it is hard to see, the “Boulevard building” hides a historic structure done in the Streamline Moderne style, and want the facade, at least, saved.
Speaking out at the meeting, members of the West Hollywood Preservation Association (WHPA) decried the plans to demolish the 9080 Santa Monica building, built in 1928 and re-designed in 1938, into the design.
“If this building was in South Beach, there would be a giant, gay riot to save this building,” said Roy Oldenkamp, WHPA’s vice president. He complained of the city’s complacency surrounding historic preservation.
“There is not going to be any such riot because of a lethargic community.”
The project has received kudos for is re-design, and passed the planning commission design subcommittee with flying colors, hailed as a beacon on WeHo’s Westside.”
The project drew positive comments from some of the neighbors, who all wanted to replace the building with something more fitting to the community.
But the historic activists had done their research, albeit a little late. Krisy Gosney and Kate Eggert, who spearheaded the protection of the craftsmen homes on Palm Ave. last year, presented finding based on two weeks’ heavy research.
They found that the building had been designed by a world-famous architectural firm responsible for some of the most iconic buildings in LA County and around California.
According to Ms. Gosney, “Wurdeman and Becket are two of the most famous architects in the world. And our building is perfectly poised at the entrance to our city,” she said. “That’s incredibly fortuitous. I would hate to see my city go through another Dodge House experience by letting its Wurdeman and Becket be destroyed.”
She goes on, “This 1938 Wurdeman & Becket streamline modern building was originally a veterinarian’s office/hospital for Dr. Eugene Jones. He was veterinarian to the stars (and also created the historic pet cemetery in Calabasas). This office was the first small pet veterinarian in Los Angeles county.
“This building is eligible for California Register of historic places (LA Magazine, on-line, will be doing a story about it soon. It will have additional photos.) No one denies that it is historic.”
Architectural historians call this building a “lost Wurdeman & Becket” because it has gone unaccounted for until now. The rest of the firms ‘s work, however, is well known.
The 303,000 square foot project consists of three buildings with a wide public interior court/passageway that will provide a shortcut between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue in mid-block.
The mixed use project incorporates offices, restaurants and shops, along with 76 residential units, 15 of which would be reserved for low- and moderate-income renters.
It will include 884 parking spaces – and endearing itself to city hall’s heart – 94 more parking spaces than are required by city codes.
Melrose Triangle is a project of the Charles Company, a real estate development and leasing firm owned by Arman and Mark Gabay of Beverly Hills. Charles Company also owns Excel Property Management and has other wholly or partially owned affiliates such as Broadway Square LLC, System LLC, Sancam, Oppidan LLC.