There are very few, if any, eating places in Los Angeles that can equal the impressive record of the Pantry at the corner of 9th and Figueroa streets--both in terms of business longevity and the gigantic portions it serves at modest prices--all of which resulted in a California historic landmark designation last year.
The restaurant has been open for business since 1924, 24 hours a day and has never once closed its doors. Its popularity is staggering--2,000 to 3,000 customers per day (on a ratio of 80 employees to a seating capacity of 84)--its meals adding up to a yearly consumption of 950,000 pounds of beef, 750,000 eggs, 416,000 pounds of potatoes and 260,000 pounds of cabbage for its traditional cole slaw.
So, what has any of this to do with the fanfare this week surrounding the proposed 36-story tower to be known as the 865 South Figueroa Building, designed to form a gateway into the emerging South Park financial district of downtown Los Angeles?
Henceforth, following construction in 1986 of the $150-million project of Manufacturers Real Estate (a division of Manufacturers Life Insurance of Toronto), the Pantry and 865 South Figueroa will be joined together as neighbors in what might seem like a preposterous architectural alliance.
The $26-million acquisition by Manufacturers Life Insurance of 120,000 square feet plus air rights above the Pantry site, was conditioned on keeping the small, 1920s-vintage restaurant structure intact. Attorney/investor Richard J. Riordan was willing to part with the rest of his adjoining property but, he said, "I didn't want to risk destroying an institution."
He was hell-bent and determined to save the Pantry, and added, "I guess we're proud now to have been able to do what General Custer couldn't do--stand his ground."
The neighboring tower will occupy nearly the entire block on the northwest corner of 9th and Figueroa streets and will surround the restaurant on two sides, with an extension of its plaza camouflaging the unsightly machinery on the Pantry's rooftop. The property is also bounded by Francisco Street and 8th Place.
The design challenge left to the Los Angeles architectural and engineering firm of Albert C. Martin & Associates has been happily resolved, according to Christopher C. Martin, partner in charge of operations for the firm.
"We believe the tower will be as unique among the existing skyscrapers as the wonderful historic buildings were back in the 1920s," Martin said, "like another Martin firm design--the Los Angeles City Hall--in that the triparte design will have a distinct top, middle and massive base, anchoring 9th Street as the primary arrival point.
"The middle portion of the building is a layered design that provides a sculptured form against the skyline. And the top has a rich design that makes use of the circular helipad as a functional architectural element."
Sid Dakin, vice president of Manufacturers Real Estate, announced that the project has the approval of the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles which entered into an owners' participation agreement with Manufacturers Real Estate because of the strategic proximity to the South Park financial and corporate district.
"The building will, in effect, anchor the South Park business district and will serve as the greeter to downtown on the strength of its immediate access to the 8th and 9th streets on-and-off ramps to the Harbor Freeway," Dakin explained.
The architectural character of the building will be enhanced by a skin of polished Napoleon-red granite and reflective bronze glazing. In describing the ground-level plaza, Martin said it will be paved in a rough flame-finish granite in charcoal black and deep red and will be accented with generous landscaping and major sculptural water elements.
The multistoried structure will consist of 700,000 square feet of rentable space, including the 25,000-square-foot plaza, and this retail and restaurant area at ground level will surround a sunlit main lobby with 27-foot high ceilings and glassed-in areas.
The lobby will have three elevator banks accented with polished bronze doors and marble walls. Each floor of the tower will have about 19,600 square feet of virtually column-free space and up to 32 corner-office opportunities. Restrooms will feature richly veined marble partitions, in keeping with other quality details in the building, Martin explained.
The building will have an 850-car, seven-level parking structure on site but, Martin explained, deep excavation will carefully circumvent the back side of the Pantry where the new building will abut.
Environmental systems will include a 24-hour staffed security system with a central monitoring station; each floor will have individually controlled ventilation and air conditioning monitored by dual micro-processor systems.
An air-conditioning system pioneered and proven in Manufacturers' 515 South Figueroa Building, built by the developer in 1981, is expected to save tenants several thousand dollars each year. It operates with water stored in tanks beneath the building that is chilled at night when demand for power is at its lowest.
Other environmental and safety features include an advanced electrical operation, a complete fire/life safety system, and fully sprinklered offices.
Leasing and management will be handled by the Manufacturers Real Estate Los Angeles office under the direction of William Sheperd Jr., branch manager. Occupancy is scheduled for the fall of 1988.