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The Roses . . . and Lemons of Downtown L. A.

May 03, 1985|SAM HALL KAPLAN | Times Urban Design Critic

The Downtown Breakfast Club once again has raised a collective critical eyebrow, bestowing its annual "roses & lemons" awards at a gathering Thursday.

And once again receiving a lemon was the Beaudry Center, ajarring office and parking complex hovering like some megalith at 3rd City Review

Street just west of the Harbor Freeway.

Last year, the center received the dubious recognition for its bulky 29-story office tower. This year, its adjacent 12-level parking structure, described by the club as a "sardine can," was cited.

The center had been designed and developed by the C-D Investment Co., a private partnership, which subsequently sold it to Sun Cal Properties, a Texas-based financial corporation. Though Sun Cal did have the garage redesigned, the effort apparently did not impress the public and corporate officials who compose the membership of the informal downtown club.

Coincidentally, the guest speaker at the awards ceremonies was Irv Margol, an executive with Security Pacific National Bank, which is in the process of moving into the Beaudry tower. He spent much of his address telling about 300 persons who attended the affair of improvements in the interior design of the tower, an attempt, he said, to turn the "lemon into lemonade."

Runners-up for lemons this year were the "abuse of corporate building signage" and Pershing Square. The signs on the tops of present and proposed office towers were described by Howard Reback of the club as tacky. He indicated that if the signs were not controlled the downtown skyline could turn into a smear of corporate signatures.

City Given Lemon

Reviewing Pershing Square, Reback noted that two years ago the club gave the city a lemon for not properly maintaining the park. The city subsequently turned the management of the park over to an offshoot of the Central City Assn.

"There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what should be done with the park," added club director Donald Battjes. "Meanwhile, it is not being maintained. Perhaps we should just plant a permanent lemon tree there."

As for the roses, winning in the category of new structures this year was the Sheraton Grande Hotel; for historic preservation, the Mayfair Hotel; for civic involvement, Jill Halverson and the Downtown Women's Center; and in the catchall category of other, the Seventh Street Bistro.

The 469-room Sheraton at the southwest corner of Figueroa and 3rd streets was cited for bringing to downtown "a touch of class in the fine tradition of the grand hotels of Europe." Noted also was the hotel's lush landscaping and four-plex cinema. It was designed with a flourish by the architectural firm of Maxwell Starkman & Associates.

Comfortable Facility

Though the shimmering 10-story, silver-glass hotel sitting on a raw concrete base looks more luxury Las Vegas than five-star continental, it has given downtown a comfortable facility that for its size is quite cozy and friendly. It was probably no coincidence that the club's breakfast for nearly 300 persons was held there.

Included as runner-ups in the structures category were the First Interstate Operations Center, the Japanese Cultural Center and Weller Court.

In awarding a rose to Jill Halverson, the founder and director of the Downtown Women's Center, Frank Jansen of the club cited her abiding commitment to aid the less fortunate. The privately supported center at 325 S. Los Angeles St. is a haven for women on Skid Row.

Halverson thanked the club for the award and "for recognizing that the poor also are a part of our downtown community."

Runners-up were the Los Angeles Community Design Center, for "providing subsidized architectural and planning services to low- and moderate-income groups in the downtown area"; IBM, for consolidating its suburban facilities in downtown office space, and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency and California Plaza for their joint effort establishing the Museum of Contemporary Art, now under construction downtown.

A Rosy Surprise

The award of a rose for historic preservation to the Mayfair Hotel at 1256 West 7th St. was a surprise because the facility built in 1920s, though attractive and comfortable, is not particularly distinguished. More impressive were the runners-up, the Embassy Hotel and the Bradbury Building.

What the Mayfair was cited for was "a pioneering effort west of the Harbor Freeway" that involved the transformation--with some difficulty--of a shabby residential hotel into a pleasant bed-and-breakfast facility. The firm of Cheryl Monore directed the interior design.

It was noted that despite the convenience to downtown, the area in which the hotel is located is in need of much preservation. Also needed is any sensitive development that recognizes the area's rich history as well as its residential and commercial potential.

Last year's rose for historic preservation went to the Fine Arts Building at 815 West 7th St., which had been lovingly restored by the development firm of Ratkovich, Bowers & Perez. To lend some class to the building, what had been a banking hall on the ground floor was redesigned by Brenda Levin Associates as a restaurant.

This year a rose in the category of other was awarded the restaurant, the Seventh Street Bistro. Runner-ups were the Temporary Contemporary Museum of Art and the graphics on the exterior of the building at the southeast corner of 5th and Hill streets.

The restaurant was cited for its "quality of design" and its quality of food. Perhaps next year the Bistro will open for breakfast, at least for the club's annual award ceremonies.

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