Last year, a proposed high-rise complex slated for the former home of the Los Angeles Times received a lukewarm reception from the City Planning Commission. Now, Vancouver-based developer Onni Group has responded with a full redesign of the project.
Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) has taken over as the design architect for the Times Mirror Square development, which would rise along the east side of Broadway between 1st and 2nd Streets. The revised project discards the boxier structures envisioned by AC Martin in favor of a pair of glass towers lined with undulating horizontal fins.
Despite the redesign, the planned new construction - consisting of 37- and 53-story towers featuring 1,127 apartments, 34,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and parking for more than 1,700 vehicles - remains unchanged, according to a representative of Onni Group.
The Canadian developer also plans to retain and restore the oldest sections of the L.A. Times property - the 1930s and 1940s buildings which line Spring Street site of the property - as offices for rent. The upper floors of the Times and Mirror Buildings contain more than 300,000 square feet of offices, and would also include ground-floor retail space.
The historic buildings and new construction would be separated by a north-south paseo cutting through the center of the property.
Construction of the Times Mirror Square development is expected to occur over a roughly three-year period. The developer previously expected to break ground in late 2021 and complete work by late 2024, according to a presentation given in 2019 to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council.
Plans for the former L.A. Times property emerged September 2016 - two years prior to the newspaper's relocation to El Segundo - when Onni Group purchased the site for the reported sum of $120 million.
The project has faced fierce opposition from preservationists, who have objected to Onni's plans to raze the western half of the site - a 1970s expansion designed by William Pereira - to make way for the proposed apartment towers. An attempt to designate the full site as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument received the endorsement of the City's Cultural Heritage Commission endorsed monument status for the entire campus in 2018, but the Los Angeles City Council voted to only landmark the older buildings facing Spring Street, removing a potential impediment to the proposed development.
The project has also been targeted by an appeal from the Supporter’s Alliance for Environmental Responsibility, an organization affiliated with construction trade unions, which have argued that the project's environmental study does not sufficiently account for potential impacts to surrounding historic resources, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions.
In public comment at the January 21 meeting of the City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee, opponents of the development have also seized on campaign contributions made by Onni Group to a political action committee tied to former City Councilmember Jose Huizar, who is facing Federal charges of accepting more than $1 million in bribes from real estate developers. Multiple commenters urged the Council's Planning and Land Use Committee to put entitlement proceedings for the Times Mirror Square project - as well as other developments processed during Huizar's tenure on the Council - on hold due to the ongoing FBI investigation into City Hall corruption, although Onni has not been named in the case.
The project was unanimously approved by the Committee, and will next be considered by the full City Council.
Onni is one of three firms planning high-rise developments near the intersection of 2nd and Spring Streets, which will be served by a new subway station now being built as part of Metro's Regional Connector.
Across 2nd Street, Tribune Real Estate Holdings is planning a 56-story, 680-unit apartment tower on a property now being used as a construction site for the Metro stop. That project is also being designed by SCB.
On Spring Street, David Lawrence Gray Architects recently submitted plans to the City of Los Angeles to redevelop a small commercial building with a 17-story apartment tower.
- Times Mirror Square (Urbanize LA)